By Paul Pannone
An update over the weekend of an ongoing eWedNewz story details how Steve Lang plans to put a crimp in the flow of cheap, pirated off-shore goods flooding the American market and crippling US wedding dress manufacturers. eWedNewz continues our investigation into this groundbreaking story and how one man tries to unite an industry after years of neglect.
Steve Lang told eWedNewz he’s getting good reaction and help from the Whales of the wedding dress business to help protect brides and grooms from unfavorable experiences.
The latest move by Lang sidesteps attempts by relatively unknown members of the IBMA that unsuccessfully tried to muddy the waters by making suggestions that, according to Lang, will not work. Lengthy discussions with Lang reveal how getting to the root of the problem is the only means of curing the troubles.
After several private attempts to rally the IBMA and other splintered groups, Lang sent out an open letter to the board of the organization including its president, inviting everyone to join in the fight, further detailing how he plans to approach the problem:
Please allow me to give you a more complete update.
WE WANT TO GET CUSTOMS TO STOP THEM AT THE BORDER!!!
1. I have renewed my contact with customs and my previous relationship with the head of the enforcement department has pointed me in the direction of the new head in that area. I have not set the appointment date is yet, but I plan to have a meeting with him next week. I have been involved with these entities before and was able to get help. I’m hoping to see a repeat in this case.
What we are focusing on here is something called trade dress infringement-that is the legal term for copyright violations when it comes to clothing that do not have registrations such as embroideries or beading held by the owner. What is basically happening is these entities are riding on our coattails and using our images and then making copies.
Customs will not care about trade dress infringement unless it is a copyright issue where embroideries or beadngs have been issued legitimate copyright protection in theUnited Statestrademark and copyright office. The way this works is that you cannot copyright the functional nature of the garment-you can only copyright beading and embroidery as art. It is this copyright protection that one must seek and then register withUnited States customs.
I understand the conversations about supplying samples of these dresses, but in my experience, and I have prosecuted several suits involving the same issue in this industry, the key point withUnited Statescustoms will be neither protection of legitimate copyright infringements, or more importantly, violation of federal law. What they will be most interested in, is the illegal actions to avoid duties. This they cannot ignore.
WE WILL CUT THEM OFF FROM TRANSPORT.
2. I will be in touch with the head of legal of FedEx-that appointment is set for noon on March 20. The head of legal at UPS will be getting back to me the coming week as well. Once I have FedEx and UPS in hand I will then move on to the other common carriers.
I’ve made it very clear to my representative at FedEx and to my person UPS that they are basically violating federal law by aiding and abetting counterfeiters, violators of intellectual property, and most importantly, entities breaking United States customs rules and regulations. This obviously struck a nerve as the head of legal has made the appointment with me for Tuesday as opposed to some underling. This gentleman called back within an hour of my phone call to my representative. I take this is a very good sign that they too are concerned.
I’ve indicated to UPS that I will only speak to someone at a similar level in their organization.UPS, FedEx and all of these companies have internal oversight committees and procedures as they are all concerned about counterfeiting, illegal drugs, etc. that could negatively affect their company. They cannot possibly afford to hide their head in the sand with these issues.
WE WILL CUT OFF THEIR SOURCE OF FUNDS
3. We are in the process of reaching out to PayPal, Amex, Visa, MasterCard, etc. regarding the same issues. Again, all of these entities have legal oversight facilities to make sure that they do not aid and abet criminals.
WE WILL EDUCATE THE CONSUMER
4. I’ve been in contact with all the major publications. Today the Knot committed a very significant program using the power of their reach for education of the consumer. I’m quite confident I will receive the same support from all media. In addition, the Knot has committed $5000 for the effort.
I am receiving checks from retailers, manufacturers, and even my sales reps. I am quite pleased about all phone calls and e-mails I have received from manufacturers pledging support. I will continue the effort to engender support across the industry. Many of the publications broadcast my letter announcing the need for the industry to pull together and I get calls and e-mails nonstop.
WE MUST COME TOGETHER
5. There is a meeting at 11 AM on Monday, March 26 on the eighth floor inChicago. All interested manufacturers have been invited to attend. Counsel for the effort, Mr.CraigHilliard of Stark and Stark , will attend this meeting. He is flying in at his own cost as a show of good faith. This legal firm is one of the largest inCentral New Jerseyand has been very beneficial to my company. It was very nice of them to pick up the costs from his own pocket for this event.We all be forming an LLC that in turn will be represented by the law firm. All funds coming in the been made out to this firm and not Mon Cheri. Mr. Hilliard will represent this new entity, and hopefully this will quell some of the concerns that the funds may be utilized outside of this effort. As I indicated, not one check has been written to my company; all has been made out to the law firm.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO PERSONALLY
6. In terms of my time and attention to this effort, I have reorganized my own workflow at my company. I am delegated away many of my prime responsibilities to others so that I have adequate time to concentrate on this effort. In addition to my own financial contribution to the fund, I am dedicating a full-time employee here to work with me on this project. This is a senior manager with a significant package that will work full-time against these counterfeiters. In addition, I will utilize skills of our PR firm as needed and I will pay for that.It is apparent that the board is determining which way to proceed on this issue. I will be in the country for four more weeks until I depart forAsia. I will be inAsiafor a month.
I will continue this effort while I am away on multiple fronts. My office will continue to take instructions from me, I will continue to stay in contact with the parties I have spoken to or will speak to in the coming weeks, and I will keep the board informed.
In addition, I am trying to visit a total of 27 factories while I am inAsia. I will keep my eyes open, I will attempt to visit subcontractors, and I will report on what I see.Given time is tight, approach must be as follows-to get things moving as quickly as possible and to not be held back by delays, debates, or any other activity that prevents me from using next four weeks as productively as possible.
I welcome any input from anyone. If the board decides it is in their best interest to help offset some of the costs involved and to associate themselves with this effort, that would be wonderful. I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from the industry and it is nice to see people coming together in an effort to get something accomplished.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO US ALL
This offshore situation has grown exponentially. There are over 250 of these sites operating today. It was a handful a year ago compared to what we have now. This is the greatest danger that has hit the industry since the advent of the box stores. Prices have risen in the lower prices shown on these websites looks like even a better value to the consumer. Many factories overseas have been forced to tap into the subcontractor element as their own factories cannot attract enough labor. The high cost of labor has also led good factories to seek out subcontractors. Not only has this affected quality and delivery, but it has helped spawn the problem we have.
Web operators approach these subcontractors offer them more money than they get for producing for major factories. It is an enticement that they cannot avoid taking a look at. It is the profit incentive. This new business model will continue to grow if not stopped.
I will keep you apprised as significant developments arise.
Lang informs eWedNewz he’s receiving coöperation and monetary assistance by some of the wedding industry’s biggest entities, including the Knot. In our latest discussions he told eWnZ;
“The whales of the industry see the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish and they’re responding.”
On the negative side, eWedNewz has obtained emails showing the disgust by some board members that say the president, Alan Dessy, remains silent, unwilling to respond to the overtures. Lang’s moves are even sparking some very politically correct members of the wedding dress business– Peter Grimes of Vows magazine– to offer some assistance to Lang’s campaign without a full-fledged mutiny against the IBMA board. Grimes also fell silent after a brief exchange over a week ago but is quietly offering up his help and actually doing something.
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