Textile Company Wins Major Lawsuit Over Fabric Design Copyright
More than a year after filing a copyright infringement lawsuit over three fabric designs, a textile company has been awarded a massive jury verdict. The award of $650,000 in punitive damages against the infringing company is one of the largest monetary awards this year for fashion copyright infringe
Facts of the CaseThis case was filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in July 2013. The case centered around three proprietary fabric designs that Novelty Textile (Vernon, California) claimed it had developed. One of the defendants, Hot Shot HK (doing business as Brat Star Inc. in New York) placed purchase orders for the fabrics and canceled the orders only a day later to have the designs reproduced in China. The fabric designs were made into clothes that were then sold to The Wet Seal stores, another defendant in the case. That chain continued to sell the clothing even after receiving a cease-and-desist letter. The fabric designs were copyrighted in 2012, a year before they were shown to the buyers at Hot Shot HK. In a summary judgment, the District Court found both defendants guilty of willful copyright infringement under the Copyright Act of 1976. A jury then decided punitive damages of $650,000.
Other Fashion Copyright LawsuitsThis is not the first time that Novelty Fabrics has had to sue for copyright infringement. The company has filed at least 14 other lawsuits against retailers like Nordstrom, Windsor Fashions, Charlotte Russe, Love Culture, Ross Stores, and Rue21 Inc. However, it is rare for these types of cases to go to court; most fashion copyright infringement cases are settled out of court. Other textile companies have also received big awards for copyright infringement cases involving fashion and fabric designs. Last year, Advanced Visual Image Design sued Exist Inc. for copying more than two dozen proprietary fabric designs. A jury awarded Advanced $1.75 million. About 300 lawsuits involving copyright infringement of fashion or fabric designs are filed every year in California, New York, and Canada. Many experts encourage designers to have warranties and agreements in place with their vendors that make the copyright to the designs clear and unambiguous. However, when a design is copyrighted there are no accompanying photos or drawings, so it has been relatively easy for people to infringe upon the copyrights of fabric design.