It looks like Retail giant Forever 21 is at it again.
I kept hearing about Forever21, and so I thought I’d check out the site.
Although I never purchased anything, from time to time I’d check out their new inventory. On my second or third time there, I saw a shirt that said “Lost Cat” and immediately I thought something didn’t look right. It looked almost exactly like my “Loss Cat” t-shirt by Atlanta based multimedia artist R. Land (which brought “Speckles the loss cat” to street art cult status), but there were slight alterations. The concept was exactly the same, the font was the same, and the copy was from a poster I’d seen on one of R. Lands facebook pages. I was totally confused. I contacted the artist and discovered that the Forever21 “Lost Cat” shirt had never been authorized and was a knock off of the original from 2001. I had heard stories of the big retail giants ripping off designs from sites like Etsy, but I guess I didn’t realize how blatant it was! Turns out upon further investigation this is nothing new for Forever21 with almost 60 copyright infringement lawsuits filed against them in the past three years by designers including Diane Von Furstenburg, Anna Sui and Gwen Stefani. I was shocked!
The problem of artists (commercial or otherwise) getting ripped off by retail giants is growing. Artists need to be made aware that unless they protect themselves legally in this predatory economy, they are vulnerable to attack by culture vultures with big gun lawyers. Why should the term “buyer beware” only apply to the consumer and not the big corporate giants? Some of the biggest ones are not showing due diligence in researching and/or ethical judgment in their buying habits. They hide behind buying entities (LLCs within LLCs) to defer the blame. Interestingly enough, the owners of Forever 21 are “christian” and they print the bible verse John 3:16 on the bottom of their bags. Apparently, they don’t spend money on advertising. Instead they spend money to settle out of infringement cases in court. It’s their strategy.
Forever 21 has also sued a blogger who was complaining about these predatory business practices for “brand infringement and dilution.”
It brings to mind the question: At what point does a creative entity become it’s own thing and no longer a copy? If something is just different enough, it can pass on it’s own sometimes. An interesting debate. The threshold varies for a lot of people. In this case, I think it’s pretty obvious. . . I think it’s a timely story that hits a nerve with a lot of creative people.
Here is a screenshot of the unauthorized product being offering (it looks like the link is inactive / they may have taken it down now):