Knockoffs don’t just happen in the fashion industry, as this case demonstrates. Here a lighter is the leading light in a lawsuit.
Most people tend to think of knockoffs in terms of the fashion industry: a knockoff of a famous designer’s dress, shoes, handbag or jacket, etc. “Think McQueen vs. Madden, a rather famous shoe knockoff lawsuit. While clothing seems to have been the major source of the latest knockoff lawsuits, it looks like other companies are getting fed up with people copying their designs and trying to pass them off as their own. Witness this latest case of lighter-making giant Zippo Manufacturing Company who is suing four Chinese companies,” suggested David Alden Erikson, a Los Angeles fashion law attorney.
It’s not just the lawsuit that is making headlines in this case; it’s the fact that Zippo is going to be laying off about 15% of their production line workers, in part because of the knockoffs of their lighters. The country really doesn’t need any more layoffs in these tough economic times, but that appears to be what will happen soon. The company has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission to stop the manufacturing and sale of the knockoffs from the biggest source of knockoffs in China.
Along with a downsizing in their workforce, Zippo also cites a 30% drop in their business, due to the knockoffs. If they can stop the flood of fake lighters and business picks up, the out-of-work employees will be called back. “While a lighter is hardly an item of clothing, the principal behind it being ripped off is quite similar to a fashion designer seeing their creations sold at cheap prices to anyone who wants a look alike,” added Los Angeles fashion law attorney Erikson.
Sick of being knocked off, fashion designers have started to fight back and are working with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to get their fashions copyrighted. Those who can’t afford the big ticket original designs appreciate getting the almost originals for less money, but fashion designers have had it with the rip-off artists cutting into their bottom line profit.
If designers are able to register their designs with the U.S. Copyright Office, they would then be protected for three years, and it would be illegal for anybody to make anything even remotely similar. “Would this solution, should it come to pass, work for knocked off lighters? It may, but only time will tell who will win the war of the similar looking product with a similar (but misspelled) name at the cheaper price,” speculated Erikson.
The whole question here is the rights of designers and original makers of various items (purses, jewelry, watches, etc.) to have their product protected from someone else who would steal it and profit from it. This problem isn’t really new, but the time has come when the original makers are fighting back and taking action.
To learn more about David Alden Erikson, Attorney at Law, visit http://www.daviderikson.com