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A landmark ruling for legal fake fashion, Supreme copycat founders sent to prison

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

Jul 6, 2021


Image: Supreme New York Facebook

The days of legal fake fashion may be over. Decades after Supreme Italia and parent company International Brand Firm Ltd (IBL), a British holding company, ran parallel operations to Supreme New York, now owned by VF Corporation, an American judge has sent its Italian father and son owners to prison, alongside a hefty 10.4 million dollar fine.

In recent years, IBL, led by Michele Di Pierro (53) and his son Marcello (24), greatly capitalised on their fake wares without any affiliation with the New York brand. They managed to register near identical marks to Supreme in countries including Italy, San Marino, Indonesia, Singapore and Spain were registered, as well as opening stores in Europe and China to sell ‘legal’ replicas.

The accusation of plagiarism and infringement of intellectual property had already been at stake for some time, at least since 2019, when the marketing of Supreme brand products in the Chinese market had sparked the ire of James Jebbia, founder of the famous label that helped define and orient the streetwear landscape, reported The Fashion Law.

”Brazen, offensive and dishonest”

The attempts to settle the dispute with VF Corporation was to no avail, as district judge Martin Beddoe found the parties guilty of fraud and sentenced the father and son to a prison sentence of eight and three years respectively.

Beddoe said the duo “hijacked every aspect of Supreme’s identity and plagiarized it”, calling their activity “brazen”, “offensive” and “dishonest”.

While a victory for Supreme, and a strong signal to other companies employing counterfeiting activities, the contentious issue remains that Supreme New York tried for years to register its red box mark in Europe.

One of the problems Supreme saw in its European trademark filings was that its logo lacked distinctive character, according to reports. The red box logo was not found to be distinctive enough and the same was said of the Futura font text. Furthermore, the word ‘supreme’ denotes a superior quality of a given product and such words cannot be patented. It would be like registering “best t-shirt ever” which is not legal as no person or company can have monopoly ownership of a t-shirt.