Nothing says ‘Forever’ like a lawsuit for infringement

Imitation could be the highest form of flattery, as long as it does not include trademark infringement. Fashion designers are suing Forever 21, the popular retail chain that sells ‘ripped-from-the-runway’ looks for a third of the cost. Designers such as Diane Von Fustenburg, Gwen Stefani, and Anna Sui are claiming that the trendy mall store goes beyond imitation and right into the icky, blurred web of trademark infringement.

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

Imitation could be the highest form of flattery, as long as it does not include trademark infringement.

Fashion designers are suing Forever 21, the popular retail chain that sells ‘ripped-from-the-runway’ looks for a third of the cost.

Designers such as Diane Von Fustenburg, Gwen Stefani, and Anna Sui are claiming that the trendy mall store goes beyond imitation and right into the icky, blurred web of trademark infringement.

In 2007, the fast-fashion retail chain was sued twenty two times from different companies, and the chain is remaining stoically tight-lipped about their inspiration practices.

Forever 21 is not the only chain in deep water, stores like Bebe and numerous mall stores that provide consumers with affordable ‘knock-off’ versions of costly runway looks may soon be facing the same ordeal.

So much that the fear of ‘copying’ in the fashion industry is spurring Furstenburg and other designers to push for a bill that would make specific the guidelines to what is copying and what is not.

Under the bill for example, if a designer came up with an idea for a dress, the designer could get the idea copyrighted – right down to the silhouette, cut, print and color of the garment.

This would make any knock-off a clear violation of the bill and result in legal consequences.

As it stands, knock-offs can be produced as long as the product does not have the designer’s logo.

Which is why consumers can buy fake Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags.

But this bill, and these lawsuits are a double-edged sword.

Stefani, whose Harajuku Lovers line was allegedly copied by Forever 21 is seemingly contradictory.

How can Stefani sue for ‘copying’ when the concept of the Harajuku Lovers line was practically “ripped off” from hip Japanese teenagers?

It’s absurd. Designers have made careers off drawing inspiration from the past, from subcultures like punk and hip-hop and even literature.

Is that copying?

If the bill is passed, designers could easily be sued by other designers over who had the idea first.

The bill would stifle creativity and would limit fashion options and choices.

It makes no sense to copy-right an idea, and how would a designer prove that it was solely theirs?

It’s only been recently that everyday people could afford the fashions they see on TV, not everyone can afford a $2,700 dress and that’s where stores like Forever 21 step in, they make it affordable.

Instead of suing Forever 21’s prints right from under them, designers should take a tip from other designers like Karl Lagerfield Vera Wang and Roberto Cavalli who work with retail outlets such as Target, Kohls and H&M.

These designers are creating wallet friendly creations, that have critics and consumers alike praising the democratization of style.

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