The legality of counterfeit (or so-called designer inspired) dresses is confusing to many people. No one wants to pay full price for what they believe is a designer dress and then discover that it’s a knock-off. But some brides-to-be and their maids, in the interest of saving money, gladly patronize eBay sellers and online shops that blatantly advertise from scratch copies of high-end wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses.
Counterfeit Chic has a straightforward explanation of how laws and lace intersect:
Like other items of clothing, wedding dress designs are not protected by intellectual property law. One designer did manage to find a loophole, however. In Eve of Milady v. Impression Bridal, 957 F.Supp. 484 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Judge Shira Scheindlin granted a prliminary injunction against an alleged copyist of the distinctive lace designs on certain bridal dresses. The reason? While clothes are not subject to copyright, fabric designs are considered protectable forms of writing, and the court found lace patterns to be a form of fabric design.
The majority of our gowns are not brand name designer dresses. We custom manufacture “design inspired” gowns which closely resemble the photographs but include signature design elements unique to us. The images shown are reference photographs to illustrate the basic design and cut of the gown. Our clients frequently make additional modifications and design changes.
We all know that low-end shops “borrow” from the lines they see on the runways, but they usually put their own spin on the pieces they gank. Do signature design elements negate the theft of a design? What if a bride pays for a custom made gown and asks her seamstress to copy a designer’s work from a snapshot, but the seamstress doesn’t know where the snapshot came from? There are so many gray areas, legally, ethically, and morally!
I love the dress above, but because I stumbled across it on a counterfeiter’s web site, I don’t know who designed it. I don’t know what it ought to be made of, or how thick the lining should be. I can’t be sure how much it should cost. The price range for the gown is listed as $2199.00 to $2899.00…for just a little more, you can get a wonderful, beautiful, high-quality gown that is completely legal and karmically clean.
Honestly, I’m torn on the subject. Do you think it’s dishonest to buy a designer copy or just a great way to save some money on a gown?