Fordham Law

Diane von Furstenberg Studio Settles with Mercy of Canada

Professor Susan Scafidi in Business Wire, June 11, 2009

Media Source

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Diane von Furstenberg Studio, L.P. and design duo Jennifer Halchuk and Richard Lyle of Mercy of Canada have reached an out-of-court settlement resolving Mercy’s claims that DVF had wrongfully copied original elements from one of Mercy’s jacket designs in a jacket from DVF’s Spring collection. Mercy is recognized as one of Canada’s emerging design houses. As part of the settlement, DVF has agreed to pay Mercy an undisclosed amount in compensation and has agreed not to use the design in the future without Mercy’s prior permission.

When news of the similarities between the two jackets first came to light, Diane von Furstenberg immediately issued a public apology and contacted Jennifer Halchuk and Richard Lyle to resolve the matter. “I greatly appreciate DVF coming forward to resolve this issue in a such a forthright manner and for acknowledging our ownership of the jacket design. We are very pleased to have successfully resolved this dispute in a manner that protects our design,” said Jennifer Halchuk. There are images of the jackets on the National Post website.

Fordham law professor Susan Scafidi, an expert in intellectual property and fashion law, notes that no compensation was required under either current U.S. or Canadian copyright law. She adds, “It takes a great deal of character to admit an error, and even more to accept financial responsibility above and beyond what the law imposes. Diane von Furstenberg obviously believes that the label that bears her name should also reflect her commitment to originality and to ethical design principles.”

As the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Diane von Furstenberg has made it a priority to protect the integrity of fashion design and to condemn the practice of plagiarism within the fashion industry. Over the last 3 years she has championed the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (DPPA), which would create intellectual property protection for fashion designs under U.S. law. "I believe this bill is good for the entire industry as it will elevate design at all levels and nurture the hiring of real design talent," she said. The DPPA would amend the existing U.S. Copyright Law to include protections for fashion designs. In contrast with the 10 to 25-year term of protection afforded by many other nations, the bill proposes a modest, 3-year term of protection for fashion designs.

“While this is an isolated instance for DVF, it is unfortunate that way too many others intentionally build businesses by stealing the work of other designers,” said Ms. von Furstenberg. “The design process is vulnerable and in need of urgent reform so companies like Mercy can be protected. Now is the time to pass the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, and we must all do a better job teaching the next generation of designers and the thousands of designers who work in industry that copying is wrong.”

Mercy of Canada was represented by Joel Karni Schmidt of Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C. DVF was represented by Scott Gelin of Greenberg Taurig, LLP.