Independent artists and small-scale accessory designers may be flattered when a world-renowned fashion designer includes their pieces in a new collection. Such recognition and exposure could be just the nudge that turns a cottage industry into a corporation. However, a small group of artists is not flattered, especially when the famous designer allegedly gave no credit to the true designer of the items he included in his newly-revealed collection. The artists are now trying to regain control of their designs through intellectual property litigation in New York civil court.
Katie Thierjung and several others design fanciful enamel pins and embroidered patches, selling them through their websites and exclusive showrooms. In January, Thierjung was shocked to learn that some of the accessories in the new collection of international designer Marc Jacobs were nearly identical to items she had designed and sells on her company’s website. Jacobs had apparently never sought permission from the designers to use or sell their designs.
Thierjung sent Jacobs a cease and desist letter, but learned that Jacobs continued to infringe on her copyrighted items by allegedly adding more copies of her designs to his collection. Thierjung, along with the owners of two other companies, Laser Kitten, LLC, and Wildflower + Co., Inc., filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The complaint says that Jacobs, by making illegal copies of their designs, has robbed them of an important means of making a living.
While it may seem intimidating to go up against a powerful person, such as a famous designer, artists in New York and beyond have every right to protect their designs and creations. Sometimes an agreement can be reached between the parties, but other times intellectual property litigation is the only way to obtain a just resolution. Seeking advice from an attorney will help artists determine the best course of action for their situations.
Source: artsy.net, “Artist Sues Marc Jacobs for Copyright Infringement“, Isaac Kaplan, Nov. 21, 2017