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The Acceptable Knockoff

The Acceptable Knockoff
By ROB WALKER

Published: December 12, 2004
The It Bag

Last year, Louis Vuitton released a new handbag line that became a tremendous hit in the marketplace. It was the kind of success -- more than 70,000 bags and accessories were sold in the first year -- that earns a media-friendly nickname like the It bag. Also last year, Dooney & Bourke released a handbag line that looked quite a bit like Louis Vuitton's trendy model, albeit at a far lower price. Dooney & Bourke named its new product the It Bag. The company has sold about 500,000 of these. The most popular version seems to be the one that looks the most like the Vuitton. Not surprisingly, the matter ended up in the courts. This past summer a federal judge in the Southern District of New York issued a ruling saying that while Dooney & Bourke had ''copied'' Louis Vuitton, it had not violated the French fashion giant's intellectual property rights, and could go about its business. The It Bag might be a knockoff -- but it's an acceptable knockoff.

. . .

The bags are not identical: aside from the different letters in the logos, the D&B version renders its repeated mark in a smaller size and also features multicolor zippers. ''The colors used on the Dooney & Bourke bags,'' the judge added in a brief aesthetic flight, ''are noticeably toned down, and consequently fail to evoke the characteristic 'friction' sparked by Murakami's bright, clashing colors.''

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