Instead Of Nasty Lawsuit Against Counterfeiter… Why Not Look At Partnership Opportunities?

from the not-everything-needs-a-lawsuit dept

It’s all too common for IP lawyers to go to the legal nastygram first, rather than recognizing that perhaps the “infringement” is an opportunity. Take, for example, this (amusing) story about how when Prada, the famous design company, first got started, Miuccia Prada got angry about someone making knockoff products. Except… rather than sue Patrizio Bertelli, who was making the knockoffs, she was convinced by him to make use of his manufacturing capabilities, and the two teamed up… even to the point of eventually getting married to each other. Obviously, that’s a pretty extreme example, but the key point is worth repeating: sometimes the better solution is not to freak out and sue over infringement, but to see if that infringement can be used to your advantage.

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Companies: prada

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Comments on “Instead Of Nasty Lawsuit Against Counterfeiter… Why Not Look At Partnership Opportunities?”

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NullOp says:


Reminds me of a story from earlier times when a major soft drink mfg discovered their main competition was doing something illegal in the grocery stores. They first thought of a lawsuit then asked themselves “Hey, can we do that?” The rest is written in the history books covering “Fair Trade.” BTW, Royal Crown broke up the party later.

ClarkW (profile) says:

Sometimes the threat is expected.

In my Negotiations class as an MBA student, we did an interesting case study called Luna Pen. I believe it’s entirely fictional, but the long and short of it is that a German company acquired the Luna brand (premium fountain pens) and eventually discontinued the brand. Years later, they are made aware of someone selling new Luna pens in Southeast Asia. The young protagonist assigned to deal with the situation tracks the counterfeiter down as a Chinese businessman who has apparently reverse-engineered a few models and is making excellent copies and selling them in Thailand and thereabouts.

The first part of the case study asks you which of four options you would pursue as your first contact to the counterfeiter, which I believe go something like this:

1) A letter indicating that you are interested in doing business with him.
2) A letter that you would like him to contact you about his Luna Pen operations.
3) A cease-and-desist and that as the rightful holder of the Luna Pen trademark you are preparing legal action against him.

There was one other that was maybe halfway between my options 2 and 3. Most of the American students in the class went for option 2. A few went for option 1.

The two Chinese students in the class were the only ones who went for option 3, and were adamant that were they in the counterfeiter’s shoes, they would be unlikely to even bother responding in any way whatsoever to a letter such as option 1 or 2.

Now, that doesn’t mean that’s what the end result has to be, and that doesn’t mean that it’s the fastest/best/ethical/most profitable thing to do, but in their minds it was the ONLY way to successfully start the dialog in that cultural context.

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