How Zara & Other Fast Fashion Brands Get Away With Copying Designers’ Work
By Mikelle Leow, 07 Mar 2018
Composite image by DesignTAXI. Left image via Zara, right image via Adidas, logos via Wikimedia Commons
You’ve probably read about this scenario on a regular basis: a brand accuses a mass retailer—for the umpteenth time—of copying its work. In spite of the endless lawsuits filed against the latter, it continues to deliver “inspired” derivatives from high-end and indie designers.
Zara and Forever 21 are just two culprits from the fast fashion business who are frequently reproached for “ripping off” creative ideas. The fact that this is a perpetual game might confound many, so Business Insider has sought to confirm why it keeps happening.
Christiane Campbell, partner at Duane Morris law firm, told Business Insider that fashion isn’t as protected as most creative works because fashion products are functional, and thus cannot be safeguarded by law.
“To be protectable by copyright, an item cannot be functional… the argument has always been that fashion is not protectable.”
Of course, there are remedies to defend fashion ideas, but Campbell warned that they can be taxing and expensive.
Companies can apply for trademarks—such as adidas’ iconic three-stripes design—and design patents, to gain legal leverage over potential copycats. However, it’s important to note that these filings are often geographically specific, so a brand from another continent might still be able to use your design.
Another reason fast fashion stores seem to be able to skirt the law with alleged dupes is because of how quickly their collections come and go.
Campbell pointed out that the painstaking process of suing mass retailers might take even longer than the duration of which knockoffs stay on shelves. Hence, these brands “tend to be pretty risk-tolerant.”
I've been pretty quiet about this, until now. Over the past year, @zara has been copying my artwork (thanks to all that have tipped me off--it's been a lot of you). I had my lawyer contact Zara and they literally said I have no base because I'm an indie artist and they're a major corporation and that not enough people even know about me for it to matter. I plan to further press charges, but even to have a lawyer get this LETTER has cost me $2k so far. 〰 It sucks and it's super disheartening to have to spend basically all of my money, just to defend what is legally mine. ⚡️ EDIT: Some of you are asking how you can help. Repost and tag them, on Twitter, on Insta, on Facebook. I don't want to have to burden any of you with the financial strain that comes with lawsuits.
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[via Business Insider, images via various sources]
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