One of the hardest things to justify to consumers who don’t align themselves with the industry is to fork out a lump of money for a piece of luxury clothing that could easily be replicated at mass production for a quarter of the price. Understandable, the internal argument between meeting consumer demands of cheap production VS standing out with a quality statement piece is not easy to win a crowd over with.
Looking beyond the counterfeit production of luxury goods in terms of consumerism, one must consider the ample time put into the creation of creating, producing, and marketing the desirable and exclusive lifestyle of a respectable luxury brand. Not only is this taking away what is known as intellectual property (IP) for the individuals who spend countless hours in the industry to design, but also raises the issue of consumer awareness regarding factory workers exploitation and just how much is being addressed in and outside of the industry.
In light of this issue and the ethics of IP for luxury design, one designer has won a $90 million dollar legal case against mass production companies selling fakes of his designs, along with others. Alexander Wang, director of his own brand and also creative director at Balenciaga started investing in patents and began to trademark designs back in 2012, aware of the issues with I.P stealing. Back in January of 2016, Wang sued over 400 different websites for infringing on his trademark and using the name ‘Alexander Wang’ without permission. Additionally, these counterfeit stores went as far as to mimic the production of goods and even design layouts to mislead consumers. A spokesperson for the brand has stated, “the court system is in favour for the symbolic significance of intellectual property.” Unfortunately while Wang did win the lawsuit with a ruling over the fact that 45 of the defendants failed to appear in court, it’s unlikely that he’ll receive the $90 million dollars as the owners of the online websites were mostly impossible to trace.
Looking past that, this is fantastic news for Wang and industry, with counterfeiting being a long-standing issue in the industry. Back in 2013, IP stealing and counterfeiting was pegged at being a market of over $500 billion dollars, with big luxury brands like Moncler winning a trademark lawsuit against a Chinese company that had replicated its jackets with their logos in 2015, Prada shutting down a counterfeit website back in January and even recently, Zara going under the knife for stealing work from smaller, independent artists.
“Protecting our brand requires maintaining constant vigilance on a global scale as well as taking proactive measures,” a statement released by Wang has said. He continued, “The creativity and originality of our designs are the foundation upon which the company is based.”
In France, it’s illegal to export, import, and have on hand counterfeit products of any kind, with the Government taking issues of IP very seriously for the sake of the fashion industry. Hopefully lawsuit successes like Wang’s will give more designers and brands leverage in court because of precedence in creative protection.