« Stop Worrying! How to Solve the eCommerce Trust Problem. (A must read if you sell or buy online!) | Main | buySAFE to be featured on Today Show tomorrow (March 20) »

Mar 05, 2007


Vivian G. Kelly

Travis, you go, boy!

Travis Brown

Dear Alain -- My thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on my recent blog entry setting out a few observations from the study tour of the French luxury goods industry, as well as my thanks for forwarding the text of your remarks given at the lunch in Paris that the Federation Francaise de la Couture so kindly hosted for us.

You’re right: my blog entry did not focus on (a) the significant differences between US and French copyright laws as they relate to the design of “useful objects” or (b) efforts that would amend the US law on this point. My piece did state that that list of current French initiatives includes “a lot of energy in persuading the US to pass a law that would make our copyright protections for fashion designs conform to the French (and EU) law on this”, but that was the extent of my mention of this particular initiative. So, I’d like to provide you an explanation for what I wrote – and didn’t write. This email being the step-child of a blog, I’ll keep it short (for a lawyer).

It’s a blog, not a treatise, and could have been usefully expanded in many different directions. You are correct that I could have described in more detail the efforts both in France and the US to bring our respective laws into closer coordination around this issue, and I, for one, think that such coordination would be a good thing. I support these efforts.

That said, the campaign to amend the US laws does not appear to lack attention or support within the groups we met with. I heard a great deal about it during our tour. I also heard various conflicting opinions from high level US, EU and other officials about the likelihood of such legislation ever becoming law in the US in the next few years. Having been a lawyer in Washington for a long time, I am sure of this: betting the farm on the adoption of any piece of legislation or regulation is a high-risk bet, and so cannot be a wise master strategy if a great deal is at stake. So while I support the sort of extension of the copyright laws that you’ve proposed, I also am convinced that the French luxury goods industry, the French government and others need to try multiple strategies to combat this continuing threat. That seems only prudent.

As you know, the linkage between legislation and solving a complex, international problem is a loose one. If laws alone were the answer, I assure you that America would have no traffic in illegal drugs, no undocumented aliens, no pirated music and no uneducated children -- all of these things are now “illegal” here! Good and consistent laws are surely part of any solution, but only part.

French industry has a tremendous history of innovation in many areas. My core suggestion is simply this: the French luxury goods industry should take advantage of available internet technology to fight the counterfeiting problem at the level of retail e-commerce. This can be done by private industry, with no legislation, treaties or governmental action required. It can be done quickly and inexpensively. If it succeeds in shifting even ten percent of demand from illegitimate sellers of fakes to legitimate sellers of genuine goods, then it will be hugely effective – and it has the potential to have much greater impact than that. If it fails, very little will be lost. Given the immediacy, magnitude and growth rate of the problem, it seems like a worthwhile experiment. Let me be clear: this is NOT a substitute for other approaches to the problem, but a SUPPLEMENT to them. I am eager to work together with you and/or any of your colleagues to move this forward.

Let me close this note by repeating my thanks to you and your colleagues for both your gracious hospitality and the substantive discussion in Paris, especially the lunch on February 23. The talk by Didier Grumbach was a real privilege and a high point of the entire tour for me. (Indeed, I’m trying to find a copy of his Histoires de la Mode online – as it is out of print, this is a bit of a challenge.)

With my thanks for your interest and all best regards, Travis

alain coblence

Dear Travis,
I have to say that I am a bit disappointed (to say the least) that your report does not refer at all to the fact that in the United States, piracy is allowed, knock-offs are legal and what you call the "Bad Guys" appear on the morning shows a couple of days after the Red Carpet show at the Oscars to peddle their fakes. One thing is to give a "coup de chapeau" to the French for their good work, another is to remain silent on the lawfully organized trade of counterfeits in this country as long as they do not bear a fake label.
Warm greetings nonetheless.
Alain Coblence

The comments to this entry are closed.