I had the pleasure of attending the Federal Bar Fashion Law Conference a few weeks ago. Great speakers presented business & unique legal issues affecting the Fashion Industry. Presentations included discussions about 3D printing technology, licensing, Intellectual Property, Counterfeiting, Emerging Markets, & Fashion Financing.
An area of great interest to me is the issue of trademark counterfeiting which is one of the main issues that plagues fashion companies. Trademark counterfeit occurs when a good is made identical or substantially indistinguishable from the trademarked good. Heather McDonald, one of the many panelists, discussed brand protection and anti-counterfeiting strategies. She has extensive experience in the area of anti-counterfeiting litigation conducting many civil seizures of counterfeit goods, she was successful in her very first seizure back in 1986. The impact of counterfeit goods costs companies as well as the economy lots of money, but that is not the only cost. Child labor has been connected to the making of counterfeit goods. Heather discussed an article written in Harper’s Bazaar called “The Human Costs of Fakes”, which discussed Chinese factories hiring girls 13 years of age to make counterfeit handbags, like Gucci, Chanel, Prada etc. The girls lived in slave conditions, locked rooms heated by propane heaters. Four girls died when there was a carbon monixide leak and their bodies were dumped in graves to avoid any news coverage. Such a sad story, that hopefully has detered people from buying these counterfeit goods. If people knew this is what they were supporting, I would pray they would stop purchasing such goods.
All of this is relevant to the fashion client, because these companies are ultimately loosing money due to the making of these goods. Here are some protection tools that can be used to protect your companies: Federal Criminal Statues, State Criminal Statutes, Civil(Real Estate, Civil Seizure), & Customs. What companies must do to protect themselves:
1) Enforce. All enforcement of trademarks requires that your trademark be registered with the USPTO, report your trademark with customs & make sure you keep recordation & registration up to date.
2)Training. Train your staff to catch counterfeit goods that are being returned to stores.
3) Third Party Actions. Collecting from alternative sources, when assets of infringer are not readily accessible. Third party liability is an option to go after someone other than the infringer for sale of counterfeit goods, a building owner or a landlord. In New York, under real property law it allows a landlord to be held responsible for the actions of tenants on the property if they had knowledge of what was going on, on the premises and failed to take the appropriate actions to remedy it.
Great information provided by all the speakers. Happy I could attend and share the information with you. Remember to protect your brand & your business!