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Designers join push for fashion piracy law

August 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — When does a knockoff become a rip-off?

Designers Nicole Miller and Narciso Rodriguez joined Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others Wednesday to press for a law that would battle cheap fashion imitations. They said their works should be protected by copyright laws just like any other creative art.

"Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's bad for our fashion industry here in New York," said Schumer, one of the sponsors of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act introduced in the Senate last Thursday.

"It's every bit as much intellectual property as writing a good book or making a good movie," he said. "And yet the law says come rip it off."

The bill, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in April, would allow designers to sue those who copy their creations for as much as $250,000 and to appeal for the destruction of pirated goods.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who joined Schumer at a news conference, said current law banned fashion piracy only if a designer's label was affixed to the fake.

"As long as you don't claim a knockoff bag is made by Kate Spade you're in the clear," Nadler said. "Even if the counterfeit is an exact replica of the original design."

Schumer said the legislation would distinguish between knockoffs and garments that were merely similar.

"Copyright law is good at this," he said. "They've done it for a hundred years, they just have never applied it to fashion."

Rodriguez, who designed the dress that Carolyn Bessette wore at her 1996 wedding to John F. Kennedy Jr., said 8 million copies of that dress flooded the market.

"It's very harmful to my business," he said.

Dana Foley, a designer with a chic Lower East Side boutique, said one retailer had copied her twice.

"We don't even know how they knocked off the last one because it's not even in stores yet," she said. "It cuts our legs out from underneath us in terms of building a brand, an identity."

Foley said her dresses cost $300 to $400, while the copy was selling for $29.99.

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