Carole Sloan, founding editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 3/17/2003 12:00:00 AM
The decision of the International Textiles Marketing Association to put an intellectual property cop on the floor of this summer's Showtime exhibition speaks volumes about the state of the industry, the challenges it continues to confront and the threats to its future.
The ITMA announced it had retained Richard Taffet, LLP, Thelen Reid & Preist to aid in policing design copyright infringements during the show.
"Taffet will have a booth on the Showtime floor and will have the authority to remove products from the premises that are under question as to design copyright infringements," said Jack Eger, ITMA president and vp of Craftex.
For Taffet, the role is not a new one. In the '90s he served as counsel to the then Textile Producers and Suppliers Association, whose membership was primarily decorative fabric converters, and he also represented the Decorative Fabrics Association in its efforts to combat design piracy.
Yet, his presence on the Showtime floor in a real-life version of cops and robbers raises the bar a few notches higher in the discussion of intellectual property rights.
Many in this industry have come to accept the premise that designs are exclusive only for a few moments — that design integrity exists only as long as it takes to usher one group of products out and another in. The situation continues to move from bad to worse and will worsen further as offshore suppliers continue to grab at designs that have required tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes more, to develop, manufacture and bring to market. Retailers and suppliers are both the doing the crime and suffering from it — while suppliers here also struggle with convoluted regulations enforced by each country of origin.
It's also become clear that the issues surrounding intellectual property rights will no longer just go away or be swept under the rug and forgotten. It's a safe bet that placing an policeman on the exhibit floor of Showtime will not make the problem suddenly go away. But, it is bound to get some interesting reaction and make a powerful statement to the industry at large, at whatever point someone and his designs are escorted down the aisle and out to the street in what amounts to an industry perp walk.
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