DIY Counterfeits vs. Brands

ByYoshiMonday 6 september 2013

Fashion must react quickly to changes in technology and make do-it-yourself, 3D-printable designs in order to avoid a coming flood of infringement and, instead, benefit from the rise of 3D printing, argues Rose Auslander, a partner in the Intellectual Property department of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, a Wall Street law
firm.

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OBJET 3D printer revealed for 2014 release
Objet Connex™ Technology works by jetting two distinct Objet FullCure® photopolymer model materials in preset combinations.

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Asher Levine sunglasses being produced by a 3D printer | Source: Makerbot

Johannesburg, South Africa — As the prices of 3D printers continue to drop, savvy consumers are already making their own counterfeits at home. In a video posted at 3dprinter.net, one even takes off the sunglasses he is wearing and shows how to make a 3D copy in a few simple steps. Needless to say, consumers may soon be printing sunglasses and jewellery from fashion designers such as Armani to Yves Saint Laurent. It would be wonderful to think that 3D printers will only increase creativity as consumers design their own printable fashion items, but if New York’s Canal Street (an infamous market for counterfeits) is a guide, once 3D printing is readily available, hordes of consumers will want copies of prestige items. So far, fashion has continued to thrive while industries like music and printed literature have taken a beating from the Internet. Now, fashion needs to take a lesson from the failure of those industries to react quickly to changes in technology. Before it’s too late.

Designers who want to lead fashion into the future need to get ready for the world of 3D printing now. The public already is fascinated with 3D printers. At the CES consumer electronics show in January of this year, crowds surrounded every booth owned by a 3D printer manufacturer and the CUBEX 3D printer won CNet’s Best of Show award for Emerging Tech. While 3D printers are not yet in most homes, some say they will be the PC of this decade — that as soon as they become affordable, they will be everywhere, growing ever more sophisticated. Today, home 3D printers are available at Staples for R12990.00, and smaller companies already offer cheaper options, such as the Assembled Printrbot Simple, available for R3990, and unassembled kits for as low as R2000. Nor is the technology know-how needed to use these printers out of reach. High school students are starting to learn 3D modeling.

Buying a 3D printer is barely necessary, paying a 3D printing service to copy all your items is just as easy. As you read, consumers are going online and designing their own eyeglasses and jewelley, which online companies then 3D print for them.
3D printing services have already faced infringement claims. Just this past February, HBO sent the 3D printing service nuPROTO a letter warning it to “cease and desist from continuing to produce and offer for sale the ‘Iron Throne Dock,’” a 3D manufactured iPod dock inspired by HBO’s Game of Thrones Fantasy TV series, and claiming that the Iron Throne Dock “will infringe on HBO’s copyright in the Iron Throne.” It has been reported that the offending Iron Throne Dock is no longer for sale, although a picture of it still appears at nuproto.com, along with this testimonial: “‘…nuPROTO has created the iThrone, a dock perfect for HBO’s Game of Thrones fans,’ – Jill Pantozzi, http://www.themarysue.com.”

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Fashion designs often are not protected by copyrights or design patents, but like HBO, where designers can track counterfeiting of their copyright, patent, or trademark rights, they can send cease and desist letters. They can also sue, if necessary. If these tactics are used against individuals or small companies, however, they can alienate consumers, as shown by the declining popularity of the Recording Institute of America (RIAA) after the organisation sent DMCA takedown notices and suing individuals for “sharing music” over the Internet.

Fashion designers saw the fallout when record labels responded to a new technology by insisting on selling $20 CD’s in brick-and-mortar stores and trying to sue Internet copying out of existence. Designers know that by the time iTunes was established, the music industry was losing billions of dollars due to rampant peer-to-peer file sharing. And smart designers aren’t waiting to be scooped by 3D counterfeits — they are already positioning themselves to benefit from 3D printing.

Asher Levine, known for his designs for Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and Bruno Mars, teamed up with 3D printer MakerBot to create print-at-home sunglasses. These designs, promoted by being printed for models during Levine’s runway show, were then readily available from MakerBot at thingiverse.com. This is a prototype of one way designers and 3D manufacturers can work together to democratise the creation of fashion for mutual benefit. As iTunes has shown, if consumers gain easy access to reasonably priced goods, they are much less likely to go through the time and trouble needed to infringe.

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Other forward thinking designers are using the creative thrust powered by 3D printing to design effects complex enough not only to be potentially protectable under copyright and design patent, but also very difficult to copy. For example, Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen’s highly-futuristic designs feature sculptural ruffles and scales that fully exploit the new medium, as does Joshua DeMonte’s 3D-printed bracelet shaped like a building, shown as part of the “40 Under 40 Craft Futures” display at the Renwick Gallery, in Washington, D.C.

To further ward off fashion-design infringement by online 3D printing services, designers also can pressure online 3D printing services to offer the kinds of rights-owner protection devices eBay provides, or the kind of claim-your-content program provided by YouTube — or to take the approach of the designers at suuz.com, who have posted a gallery of their own 3D-printing jewellery designs which consumers can then personalise, an approach that limits the potential for copyright and design patent infringement.

Surely, the big brands and the small brands face a damaging piracy by willful counterfeiters. They should take all the counterfeiters to court and get back to business as usual. But the portability of 3D printers makes counterfeiting sources almost untraceable. If the big brands and the small brands embrace a 3D printing revolution they should be able to ultimately stay afloat and benefit from 3D printing.

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