Jeremy Scott is a fashion industry darling. Each season he conjures up a collection for the young at heart that usually centers on a graphic theme. From superheroes to fast food, all was fair game for Jeremy Scott.
The Copyright Infringement
According to Style, for his Fall/Winter 2013 collection inspiration, Jeremy Scott mentioned skate decks and posters that California punks, skaters and surfers would wallpaper their walls with. What was not mentioned, was that the graphic imagery was not his. Allegedly, he was more than inspired by West Coast skate graphics -- he copied them.
The graphics in question were created by Jim Phillips Sr. and his son, Jimbo Phillips for Santa Cruz Skateboards. The Phillips' work is legendary in the skate community and the graphics have been licensed by the likes of Puma. Highsnobiety reports that NHS Inc., the parent company of Santa Cruz Skateboards, confirmed that Scott's collection was not licensed and released a statement stating:
We had never heard of Jeremy Scott until it was brought to our attention. This is not a collaboration or under license, nor did we or the Phillips family approve the use of this artwork on his apparel designs in any way.
Receiving no response, NHS sent a cease & desist letter, which Scott responded to through his attorneys. Fast forward six months to the eve of New York Fashion Week -- and the Jeremy Scott Spring Summer 2014 show -- and Highsnobiety reports that the parties have settled.
According to the agreement, Scott will destroy the infringing samples, and will not produce or distribute the infringing items. The parties will not comment the financial aspects, if any, of the settlement. Highsnobiety reports that Scott stated:
I regret that certain pieces of my February 2013 Fall Winter fashion line incorporated imagery that was similar to images owned by NHS and Messrs. Phillips. I now recognize my mistake and out of respect to their work and their rights, the clothing and handbags at issue will not be produced or distributed.
Lessons for Policing Your Company's Intellectual Property
This dispute is a great example of a brand's diligence in policing its intellectual property paying off, without having to resort to litigation. Responses to the copyright infringement were swift -- mainly due to social media. The artist, Jimbo Phillips, responded to the infringement on his Facebook page just a week after the collection made its runway debut. He along with fans spread the word of the infringement through social media like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
While you may leave the social media to your marketing department, it may be a good idea to meet with them periodically and let them know what kinds of messages and comments they should look for, that would require the legal department's attention. Being more proactive, and taking an offensive position to policing your company's intellectual property can not only protect your brand, but also have a huge payoff, according to the ABA -- you might even be able to cover the costs of the legal department.