Is it a Birkin? Is it an Apple? No it’s…

Birkin1

 

…a copy.  Or is it?

Thursday Friday Together BagYesterday I was very excited to take delivery of my long-awaited Together Bag from LA-based accessories brand Thursday Friday.  The bag is a canvas carry-all with a screen-printed Hermes Birkin on the front, back bottom and sides.  I pre-ordered the bag online back in early June, with an expected delivery date of August so I was thrilled when it arrived a little early.

Unless like me you love must-have “it” fashion, you are probably wondering why I’m sharing this news with you and why the heck I’d think you’d be even vaguely interested.

Well, here’s why.

Is it a Birkin?

When I first saw the Together Bag, I thought it was a fun idea and would make a nicer shopping tote than my green Woollies environmental bags I often use.  I know!  Quelle horreur!

I did wonder whether it was OK to buy a canvas bag with an iconic brand screen-printed on it but I just thought it was fun and as I’d read about it and seen it in the fashion mags, figured it was fine.

Unfortunately Hermes don’t feel the same way.

In January, Hermes took legal action against Thursday Friday for “trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition and dilution by tarnishment.”  Hermes claimed that Thursday Friday were “riding on the recognition and reputation of the Birkin Bag to sell its otherwise generic tote bags.  In doing so…creating confusion among the public and is putting  [Hermes’] reputation at risk.”  Ouch!

In  defense, Thursday Friday filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming that it was Hermes’ “attempt to destroy a new business for the alleged sin of producing a tote bag that has the gall to imply that paying $6,000 for a fancy purse is just a little ridiculous.” Double ouch!!

It is important to note, if for no reason than to clear my own conscience, that at no time did Hermes use the words ‘counterfeit,’ ‘copy,’ ‘imitation,’ ‘copyright,’ ‘design patent,’ or ‘trade dress’.

The matter was settled on 9th June.

If you’d like to read more about the case, including the actual court documents, an excellent account is provided on the  Law of Fashion blog.

Is it an Apple?

Darren Rowse, Problogger shared a link on Google+, originally shared by Simon Mackie, of a blog written by Bird Abroad called “Are You Listening, Steve Jobs?”  (Phew, that took a bit of getting to!)

In the blog, the writer shares a story about stumbling upon what she thought was a genuine Apple store in Kunming, China.  Of course, it was a complete fake but a very good one.  So good, that apparently even the staff believe they work for Apple!

Honestly, you have to read it and see the photos to believe it.

Is it wrong?

The two women behind Thursday Friday are Roni and Olena.   Their respective backgrounds on their “About Us” page are impressive. Both read like serial entrepreneurs and go-getters.

Roni is Harvard-educated, is in an indie rock band, previously headed a successful accessories label and runs LA-based Maths-Club.

Olena was an innovation manager for the airline industry, ran an IT consultancy and has launched StyleWellness, a company that markets wellness products.

These women are not new to business.  They seem to know what they are doing.   Did they wonder whether what they were doing might be on the edge?

I’m sure whoever is behind the fake Kunming Apple store knows full well that what they are doing is well and truly over the edge!

How can you protect your brand and IP?

In the case of both Hermes and Apple, they had taken measures to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) and Brand.  For Hermes, this enabled them to defend their rights through legal action.  As for Apple, well although the case would seem  clear-cut, dealing with IP Rights in developing nations like China may prove difficult and take a long time.

If you are starting a business, no matter how small  it is when you start out, you need to make sure that you protect your IP and brand.  You don’t want your big idea stolen by the person you shared it with in confidence, who shared it with someone else in confidence, who shared it with someone else…you get the point.

IP Australia recommends using one of more strategies:

Commercial Strategies

  • Trade secrets and confidentiality agreements
  • Rapid production and development coupled with brand loyalty

Formally Registered Rights

  • patents
  • trade marks
  • industrial designs
  • plant breeder’s rights
  • business, company and domain names

Automatic Rights (no formal registration required)

  • Copyright
  • Circuit layout rights (no, not gym class circuits!)

Legal Protection

  • Common-law
  • Consumer protection legislation (fair trading)

So as I toddle off to do my chores with my new Thursday Friday Together Bag, I think I will feel OK.  Or will I?

I just ordered a brand spanking new iMac from the genuine online Apple store and I can tell you, I will be feeling more than OK about that when it arrives 😀

Some of what I’ve written here has a slightly humorous side but for anyone who has had their idea, product or even their business stolen from them will probably not find any of it at all amusing.  This is a serious issue.

What are your views?

What have you done to protect your IP Rights?
Do you have an IP / Copyright horror story to share?
Is my Thursday Friday Together Bag OK or should I be ashamed to use it?
 
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4 Responses to Is it a Birkin? Is it an Apple? No it’s…

  1. Desolie July 22, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Hi Suellen

    That’s an interesting experience (I bought a very simple, decorated calico bag for the same purpose, so I appreciate where you’re coming from).

    But of course, the IP issue is one that most of us just don’t consider. But, as you’ve noted, we can get into deep water if we’ve not done our research.

    So thanks for sharing and giving us something to think about.

    • Suellen Hughes July 26, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Desolie,
      Thanks as always for your comments.
      Hope you are enjoying your new calico bag 🙂
      Suellen

  2. Sally Foley-Lewis July 22, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Great examples to showcase the point you’re making, Suellen.

    I have some protections in place, I’m sure more could be done. I’m in product development at the moment and I’m very concerned about protecting the process and the final product.

    I think you’ve got another few posts in this topic area… easily. Maybe a co-authored post from an IP legal-eagle ??? (Not meaning you don’t have the knowledge and expertise.)

    If you love the bag, bought it in good faith, trust the general everyday behaviour of Thursday Friday… use it and enjoy it.

    Thanks for a great post
    Sally | Fast Tracking Manager Productivity

    • Suellen Hughes July 26, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Hi Sally,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Good to hear you’ve got some protections in place. The danger is that we under-estimate ourselves and the quality of what we produce so don’t both to cover our IP adequately. When we’re in the game of sharing our knowledge, we do need to be careful.

      There is a lot to cover on this topic and I’m absolutely not an expert! Thanks for your suggestion to co-author an article with someone who knows more than me. I can ask all of the dumb questions 🙂

      I do love the bag but haven’t used it yet. I’d never heard of Thursday Friday before they bought the bag out so can’t really judge.

      Cheers
      Suellen

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