Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tsubi does an about face on it's copyright attitude.

In 2002 the Australian fashion label Tsubi accused Sass & Bide of infringing on the copyright of one of their designs. The matter was settled out-of-court. Now, an American footwear brand Tsubo is pursuing a trademark infringment case against Tsubi. Is this about face of their attitude towards intellectual property or just a case of being sticklers when it suits them?

Cool run-ins: what a difference a vowel makes - Business - Business -

Cool run-ins: what a difference a vowel makes

By Patty Huntington
April 18, 2006
FROM rats on the runway to models overboard, the maverick Sydney jeans label Tsubi made its name from a series of much talked about fashion show jokes.

Although dubbed Australia's hottest brand in this month's issue of the US fashion glossy W, the joke now seems to be on Tsubi's directors, Dan Single and George Gorrow.

The pair, busy plotting their latest Fashion Week stunt for April 28, now find themselves embroiled in a trademark dispute with a Californian footwear brand,

Tsubo, that could force them to change their name.

Tsubo's founders, Patrick McNulty and Nicholas O'Rorke, say the name Tsubi is too similar to their own brand name, established in 1998 and registered in Australia in March 2000.

Tsubi registered its company in November 2000 and its first trademark here in 2002.

After several years of informal requests for Tsubi to change the name, Tsubo had started legal proceedings against them in the Federal Court in New York, said a lawyer for Tsubo, Jack Douglas.

"Tsubi is too confusing, similar to Tsubo, too close - we have priority," said Douglas, adding that a court date had been set.

"Our goal here simply is to have what we should have as the rightful trademark owner of Tsubo, with some space around the edges of our mark. I feel quite confident that we, Tsubo, will win. Either they'll be forced to [change] as the result of a court proceeding or they'll do so voluntarily … At the end of the day they're going to have to change. It's just a matter of when they do it."

However, the trademark dispute, begun early last year, appeared to be news to Gorrow when the Herald spoke to him in New York on Sunday.

"I haven't heard that," he said.

"I don't even know these guys. I don't even know who they are. Have you ever seen one of their shoes? Maybe I've been drunk for the past 12 months."

Although the heart of the case is the Tsubi name, it is understood Tsubo is also unhappy with what it regards as two other uncomfortable similarities between the brands.

One of those is the typeface used in a version of the Tsubi logo, which Tsubo says is similar to its own.

Tsubo uses a circle-in-square logo. Tsubi has so far only registered one logo in Australia, a cross-in-square logo registered last year for use on sunglasses.

Tsubi made its name from a series of Fashion Week jokes. In 2001 it sent 169 rats down the runway. In 2003 it made its models dive from the runway into Sydney Harbour.

The dispute comes at an awkward time for Gorrow and Single, with at least one of their local suppliers accusing them of owing them money. The supplier told the Herald that Tsubi owed their company several hundred thousand dollars and that they had refused to supply further work until the account was settled. That debt was cleared just after Christmas, but the same supplier said Tsubi had run up new debts, and debts with numerous other companies.

In late October Single denied owing any money to suppliers.

Yesterday Gorrow referred the Herald to his Australian spokeswoman, Maria Farmer, but she was unavailable.

Designers gear up to sue copycats
By Rachel Wells
July 20 2002

A plagiarism war has erupted within the Australian fashion industry, the latest involving two top Sydney denim labels.

Sass & Bide designers, Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke, famous for dressing celebrity clothes horse Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame, have agreed to discontinue their 'Rabbit Boy' jeans after claims of copyright infringement by fellow label, Tsubi.

The companies came to an agreement before Tsubi were forced to take legal action.

"We had a problem with one of their wide-legged styles. We spoke to them about that and they agreed to discontinue that particular style," Tsubi designer, George Gorrow, said.

The sand-blasted, wide-legged 'Rabbit Boy' jean was so similar to the Tsubi design, one Melbourne clothing retailer refused to stock them. "I couldn't believe it when I saw them," the retailer, who did not want to be named, said.

Sass & Bide's Middleton confirmed they had discontinued production of that particular jean. She said she had a list of "15 to 18" differences between the two styles which included differences in leg-width, waist band, stitching, belt loops, and cut - particularly across the hips.

But she said Sass & Bide were sympathetic to Tsubi's concerns.

"The denim we used was exactly the same as Tsubi's and on that front I can see why they had concerns. I totally understand. It was a fair call on their behalf and an innocent oversight on ours."

Sass & Bide will make available the same style of jean in a different fabric from next month.

In coming weeks, Middleton and Clarke will seek legal advice over plagiarism of their trademark low-slung jeans. "There are about three labels out there copying our jeans stitch for stitch.

"If Tsubi want to see real plagiarism they should take a look at some of these. I can't even tell which ones are ours," she said.

Plagiarism has been rife in the Australian fashion industry for years. Recently, though, designers are taking measures to stamp out the practice.

In the past six months, Melbourne law firm, Middletons Lawyers, has handled 12 cases of copyright infringement.

"Designers are fed up with companies ripping off their original ideas. They put so much work into producing an original design.

"To see someone selling a copy up the road for half price is just heartbreaking," Middletons solicitor, Tony Watson, said.

For years, designers were told there was nothing they could do to stop the practice. But in 1999, Melbourne designer, Bettina Liano, won a Federal Court injunction barring Satch Clothing from stocking a range of jeans and T-shirts which had breached the designer's copyright.

Represented by Middletons Lawyers Liano won subsequent settlements against Maestro stores, who were selling a version of her denim skirts, and Dotti.

"Bettina Liano was a real pioneer in the fight against plagiarism. She had the courage and determination to protect her intellectual property and the whole industry is benefiting as a result. Designers just won't put up with it anymore," Watson said.

Middletons are currently acting on behalf of clothing retailer, Review, against a competitor who they believe has copied several garments from their current collection. In recent months Ellin Ambe, Dangerfield, Gatherings Design and Supre have also won out of court settlements for breach of copyright.

This story was found at:

Eric Wilson wrote about fashion knock-offs in the New York Times on March 30, 2006. (subscription required)

OK, Knockoffs, This is War

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