by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, diane von furstenberg, fashion, hypocrisy


Designer Leading The Charge For Fashion Copyright... Caught Copying Someone Else's Design

from the well-how-about-that dept

For many, many years, we've pointed to the growing body of research on how the fashion industry thrives, in part, because of its lack of copyright. However, time and time again, we hear about attempts by big designers to add a special fashion copyright. This makes no sense. The purpose of copyright law is to create incentives to create new works. Yet, the fashion industry is thriving. It's highly competitive and very innovative, as designers keep looking to outdo one another. At the same time, the "knockoffs" help spread the concept of "what's fashionable" up and down the economic spectrum in record time. This is not an industry that needs "incentives" for creativity. The only reason to put in place such a law is to prevent competition, not to encourage more innovation.

Now, leading the charge for such copyright protection is famed designer Diane von Furstenberg, who beyond being a top designer, is also president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). CFDA has been the major promoter of such a copyright for clothing design, and runs a site called You would think that von Furstenberg would be quite careful to only to come up with her own design ideas. Not so fast. This story is actually about a year old, but Public Knowledge just brought it to our attention. It seems that von Furstenberg was caught blatantly copying another (less well known) designer's design.

Of course, as soon as the story broke in the press, von Furstenberg had her lawyer call up the other designer and offer to pay up. As the National Post, notes, the level of hypocrisy is striking:
Let's remember that when she and other designers accuse chains like Forever 21 and Anthropologie for alleged garment plagiarism and talk about the intellectual property issue in general, copycatters are vilified as "pirates." Yet when a garment from DvF's own brand is found to be uncannily similar to another designer's, it's positioned as an accident, an honest mistake.
We've seen this before, over and over again. The strongest defenders of monopoly rights so often are caught blatantly violating the laws themselves... and then twist themselves into knots to try to explain why their position is consistent -- insisting it was just a "mistake." Once again, all this really highlights is that the point of IP laws is to let incumbents keep down upstarts, rather than encouraging new creativity.

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  1. icon
    fjfonseca (profile), 22 Jul 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Lets take a moment...

    ... please.

    There are two sides to this story:

    1. The totally foolish "Stop Fashion Piracy" campaign from Diane von Furstenberg that is doomed from the beginning and that was been received, since its inception, with a cold shoulder by the industry. The campaign will go nowhere because fashion design depends on pattern design and next season's patterns are not really decided by designers but by another body of the fashion industry that are the real trend setters.

    The only difference is that Diane von Furstenberg's materials are more expensive and of higher quality than those of, say, H&M but basic pattern design is the same and it is pattern design that sets the trends.

    Having said that...

    2. Companies like H&M and Zara (to name the most important ones) rely on what comes out from the several fashion weeks to cash in. Their advantage is that they work with a "just in time" stock system and they are able to produce what's "in" in the fashion world swiftly.
    These companies do copy, in detail, what is trendy while using less noble materials and within a scale that makes their products available at a price that is more attractive.

    Why aren't these companies being accused of plagiarism or piracy?

    Because they help to create fashion conscious consumers that, if and when, will step up the economic ladder and will be future consumers of high street fashion brands.

    Can it be true that Diana von Furstenberg committed an honest mistake?
    Do I believe she did?
    No way.

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