after prolonged legal proceedings, the Court of Milan has placed an injunction on a company that was selling and distributing copies of molo’s stools, benches, loungers and tables, which are part of molo’s softseating collection. For molo’s founders, Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen, this is a meaningful victory in their ongoing endeavor to protect their original designs.
molo first became aware of the copyist seating product branded as a different name when it was being offered in a European museum’s shop—a museum in which molo’s softseating had already been accepted into the permanent collection, recognized for significant contribution in design. By following this thread, molo discovered several German European retailers were selling the same products. As a first step, the parties involved were issued Cease and Desist letters, and most retailers agreed to stop selling.
The studio and its legal team began assembling evidence, including the product’s design history and development by Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen, as well as examples of molo’s coverage in European publications, trade shows and prolific clients to supplement the design registrations already held throughout the EU. molo’s intellectual property advisor, Wilfred So, worked with Jacobacci, an Italian firm of IP litigators to build the case, which included arguments for copyright infringement, design rights infringement and unfair competition. Jacobacci lawyers Alberto Camusso and Lauren Keller presented the arguments in one of the first virtual court sessions post-Covid lockdown.
there was sufficient evidence based on copyright infringement alone that the judge decided in molo’s favour for a preliminary injunction without making a judgement on the other arguments. Preliminary injunctions based on copyright in Italy are rare, which is a testament to the strength of molo’s copyright. In particular, the judicial order granted the seizure of the infringing products, mandated that the company cease and desist any production, import, advertising, commercialization of the infringing products and fixed a penalty for any violation. This copyright decision is significant since the Court of Milan recognizes molo’s stools, benches, loungers, and tables as creative works. Copyright in Italy and many other countries lasts the author’s whole life and 70 years after death. This equips molo to protect the heritage of their innovative products for the long term.
the injunction was appealed by the defendant’s lawyers, and settlement talks initiated, in which Forsythe + MacAllen were clear that they would accept nothing less than the original ruling. The partners were prepared to risk going through to the appeal based on their conviction against copying. Finally, the opposing lawyers presented a settlement that upheld the injunction but offered a slightly more lenient timeline for its execution, which molo accepted. From beginning to end, this was an emotional experience. It was also an incredible learning experience and has instilled additional confidence to pursue legal action against other known copyists.
for those purchasing molo products, they are buying into a system of development and refinement. Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen’s designs are the result of extensive research, as well as a commitment to sustainably sourced materials, ethical business practices, a safe and welcoming environment for staff, with the same standards and expectations for manufacturing partners, and a defining view that believes that the soft collection is a meaningful, modular solution to endless interior situations.
the Italian ruling is a reminder that a system exists to protect authentic design, and that despite efforts to undercut or misappropriate an original object, there are meaningful ways to oppose these reproductions. molo is sharing this success as a message of encouragement and hope. Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen believe in supporting creative industries, and the molo studio is furnished and decorated with important examples of design, art and craft. By doing so, these items are shared with staff and guests, either introducing them to a new maker, or allowing them to engage with an otherwise aspirational piece of furniture.
this helps grow that same love and appreciation for authentic design, and encourages a principle that accepts no reproduction or replacement for the real thing. By upholding and defending these ideas, the studio hopes to inspire other designers, inventors and artists to not only contend with their own copyists, but to continue to create and develop their own work to share with the world.
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