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November 22, 2004

Reproductions or Knock Offs

As long as there have been pleasing creations, there are those who have copied them. Average consumers understand that if they pay $20 for a "Rolex" on Canal Street in New York -- it really wasn't a Rolex. However $2000 for that same ersatz piece would be tantamount to fraud. No industry is immune. Look at software, music, clothing and art.

In home furnishings, there are, what we call, Modern Icons -- seminal pieces that have defined modern furniture, modern architecture and indeed all modern design. People who love modern covet these iconic representations -- although unless they are an architect or art history major, they probably don't understand the nuances of each design.

Pure Contemporary's article Furniture's Modern Icons has spurned a ton of mail. We have heard from manufacturers who hold legitimate copyrights on specific designs who want to know why we didn't come down hard on the firms who knock-off their products. Our purpose in writing this article was twofold: to educate the consumer to those very distinct modern designs as well as guide the consumer to the qualitative differences behind the investment.  The nuances of copyright law, particularly when dealing with designs that may be in the public domain, and when dealing with international jurisdictions are tough enough for the courts to figure out.

Our concern is the consumer. If you are happy with the $20 "Rolex" than so be it. If you want the $2000 real thing -- and you are duped into buying a forgery, well then that's a different story. Our point was: know from whom you are buying the piece -- and if you trust them, the price is right and it meets your standard of quality -- than be happy. Know the difference between an authentic piece and a non-authentic edition. But it is the role of manufacturers to create the value behind their licenses -- not the role of an editor. See Ernest Beck's piece reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle, where he points out the difficulties manufacturers will have to sue for copyright infringement. And Metropolis magazine points out Cassina's brilliant strategy for fighting knockoffs -- not with lawsuits but tons of information.

These articles should be the beginning of the discussion though, not the end. I invite manufacturers who hold opinions -- on either side -- to voice their thoughts. Debate only helps to educate all of us to the value of your brands. We've teed this up for you guys: we've started the dialogue with the consumer -- and now is your chance to continue it.

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Comment on This Article Here! Reproductions or Knock Offs:

What a terrific idea! I enjoyed and was educated by your article regarding authentic vs fake designs. I can't wait to hear from the designers about the intrinsic value of an original instead of a knock off.

Posted by: Shari | Nov 23, 2004 11:46:16 AM

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