WASHINGTON — The hard-fought war waged by U.S. apparel and footwear brands against counterfeiting is about to get a little help via reinforcements from the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
U.S. industry groups expect relief from a newly enacted bill that provides funding for new FBI officers and establishes a cabinet-level position within the White House to coordinate the federal agencies’ anticounterfeiting initiatives.
Despite the efforts of companies trying to stymie the proliferation of bogus apparel, footwear, handbags and accessories, U.S. Customs’ seizures of counterfeit goods have hit record highs this year on the West Coast.
China is the largest producer of fashion counterfeits that infiltrate the U.S. market. U.S. Customs seized $40.3 million in bogus footwear, of which China accounts for 96 percent, in the first half of the year and $15.7 million in counterfeit apparel, which accounted for 14 percent of the seizures in the first half of the year.
The bill signed by President Bush last Monday provides increased resources for Department of Justice programs to combat intellectual property theft, stiffen criminal and civil penalties, create a new enforcement officer and provide more funding to hire additional FBI officers.
The timing was right for the passage of a more comprehensive, high-level intellectual property effort, said Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University and author of “Counterfeit Chic,” a legal and intellectual property blog.
The possibility of increased financial resources from the federal government for enforcement efforts is important to rights owners, who look to make their own enforcement efforts more efficient in down times, she noted.
“In tough times people think harder about enforcement. When times are flush you have more dollars to throw at enforcement,” Scafidi said.
She said the legislation indicates a level of commitment to intellectual property enforcement that has not really been seen to date. Establishing the position of a so-called “copyright czar” as a cabinet-level position is as much a symbolic gesture as a practical one designed to help eliminate redundancies and centralize discussions about intellectual property rights, Scafidi said.
However, there is still a lack of consensus on the new White House post.
Brian Brokate, a partner with Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, who specializes in intellectual property and represents a host of fashion and accessories companies, said, “If there is one potential downside or criticism of [the legislation] it would be that it seems to create these unnecessary levels of federal bureaucracy, which may slow things down.”
But he noted the bill overall will provide new enforcement tools for businesses.
“I think the best thing the bill does for trademark owners, whether in the apparel or footwear industries, is in the area of statutory damages,” Brokate said.
The bill increases the statutory damages in a fundamental trademark case to a maximum of $200,000 from $100,000. In cases of “willful trademark counterfeiting,” the maximum damages would be increased to $2 million from $1 million.
“To the extent the amount of statutory damages are higher, they have a more chilling effect on those who counterfeit and think twice in terms of either going into counterfeiting or, once sued, continuing it,” said Brokate.
Kurt Courtney, manager of government relations at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said, “Overall, it improves the current laws on the books and it will definitely help our members in the trademark area. There is certainly going to be a lot more enforcement because the bill provides 10 additional FBI agents, for example, to do just intellectual property investigations,” he said.
Courtney also said the new intellectual property rights coordinator post will be “beneficial” because it will channel the coordination of several agencies “under one roof.”
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)