(Article From the New York Times)
From Newport Beach, Calif., comes word today that John Whitledge, the designer of the preppy sportswear label Trovata, has joined the throng of designers taking Forever 21 to court for copying its designs. In a lawsuit filed last week, Mr. Whitledge claims Forever 21 sought to deceive its consumers by copying Trovata designs, patterns, prints and labels over several seasons. More than 20 such cases have been filed against the retailer in recent months, including one by Anna Sui, who cited 26 potential cases of copying of her prints.
But what constitutes copying in fashion? It’s a question that designers have been debating with renewed interest over the last year since the Council of Fashion Designers of America began lobbying Congress to extend copyright protection to clothing design. Nine senators have introduced a bill supporting the designers, but the measure has generated concern among intellectual property experts because they say it will be too difficult to determine what constitutes an original design. Can the length of a sleeve or the style of a neckline be copyrighted? (Prints and logos, on the other hand, are protected as original art.)
Two things make the Trovata case interesting. Mr. Whitledge is the first designer to cry foul over men’s wear designs, which are typically less distinctive than women’s. Also, Trovata is not exactly known for its prints, but rather for generic preppy styles that include polo shirts, chinos and striped cardigans, which are hard to describe as “original” under the current copyright laws.
But Trovata also cites fairly compelling examples in its case that its clothes were indeed inspirational to Forever 21: a purple and white striped cardigan with multicolored buttons (but in a different order in a version sold at Forever 21); a cream-colored hoodie with toggle buttons and a printed lining (the print skewed at Forever 21); and a multistriped polo shirt with a yellow, red, purple and black combination (reversed at Forever 21). Then again, it will be tough to argue that Trovata owns stripes.
Before Models Can Turn Around, Knockoffs Fly
I had no idea that the industry could be so brazen. Your thoughts on the knock-off trend?