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From the Newsdesk

Sunday Times – Tom Dixon Creates Own Brand Fakes to to Beat Copyists

In her latest article, Sunday Times, Homes Editor, Katrina Burroughs, highlights Tom Dixon’s controversial approach to global copying by creating own brand “fakes”. Following Burroughs controversial article condoning cheap “lookalikes” to make innovative design more accessible, she places the question of intellectual property (IP) ownership in the headlights again.

In this article there is a slightly different take. World famous lighting design brand Tom Dixon has launched “Unbeaten” in Copenhagen at 3daysofdesign. The irony of the name, unbeaten cannot escape the reader. A victim of relentless knock offs, Dixon’s“Unbeaten” replicates his iconic “Beat” designs and is produced at less than half the price. Reeling from losses of over one billion pounds, Dixon believes he can produce lookalikes which do not compromise his original hand-made designs for Indian metal by machine-made aluminium same designs. He says, “We can talk about the two stories in parallel – the craft and the industry.” Dixon has a team of global lawyers and an extensive IP budget but even he has had to resort to alternatives for his brand to survive knock off mania.

Burroughs also reports the lament of lone, micro, and SME designers who do not have the luxury of creating “fakes” of their own brand, through lack of resources. Micro designer Nathanial Furman’s “Glowbules” found it impossible to commercialise his designs when “Candy Lights” copies proliferated the market. Low-cost knock offs by companies with deep legal pockets and “web-savvy” global reach can march away with ill-gained profits without reproach. Infringing the latest zeitgeist in innovation has become an art in itself, leaving originators bereft and aghast at the speed that knock offs can be produced at a fraction of the price, giving others financial success. This must stop, and the culture of indiscriminate copying needs far greater sanctions, locally and globally.

Lookalikes and knock offs can also compromise the quality of the original brand by being falsely accused of mediocre quality and cheap components. Some designers include an insignificant detail in their designs which can help trap copyists. A high-profile case was the Ordnance Survey v The AA. Ordnance Survey always include an extra detail in their maps. AA copied their maps and had to pay £20 million when they were caught.

“What can be done,” says Dids Macdonald, Co-founder and Chairman of Anti Copying in Design. “So often, fakes pay scant regard to sustainability or the labour conditions for the workers who produce them. The consumer must be educated that buying a knock-off or lookalike can also risk the original designer losing their business. Fakes are never in fashion (unless they are own brand created!) and cheap lookalikes can often be unsafe and are rarely of the quality of an original. Design law is unbelievably complicated, and it is cost and time prohibitive to take legal action, so shouting out on social media is a good first step but be careful of making groundless threats.

Tom Dixon is right; copyright protection would be much more effective protection. Why? Because there is stronger and longer protection, and copyright attracts criminal sanctions. Brand reputation is important to big brands, so calling them out is a good first step. Even “dodgy” brands do not like their market share being eroded by unwelcome news. Rarely do knock off brands adhere to sustainability, safety, and quality. It’s time for a change in the culture that it is OK to steal from design originators. Currently the UK government ignores the plundering of our design IP. ACID continues to fight for contributors to an amazingly robust design economy worth nearly £100 billion. The UK’s 1.97 million designers deserve better.”

I hope that major brands like Tom Dixon will join the ranks of many to sign our ACID IP Chapter calling for IP respect, ethics and compliance.

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