1. A poster designed by
Charles and Ray Eames in
the 1960s illustrates how
long the industry has been
faced with knockoff products.
(Image: Herman Miller)
2. Since 1944, the aluminum
Navy Chair has been
manufactured at Emeco using
a unique 77-step process and
comes with a 150-year warranty.
3. Imitations are not the
sincerest form of flattery when
quality suffers. A broken
knockoff of Emeco’s Navy Chair
was found in a delicatessen in
Be Original Americas was launched with 11 charter
members: Alessi, Bernhardt Design, Cassina, Design
Within Reach, Emeco, Flos, Republic of Fritz Hansen,
Herman Miller, Kartell, Ligne Roset, and Vitra.
Many more have signed on since then, including
Studio O+A and Michael Graves Design Group.
“Be Original Americas and furniture rights holders
have helped to educate us on the problem with
counterfeit furniture, lighting, decorative household
articles, etc.,” says Gregory Moore, public affairs
specialist—media division in the Office of Public
Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(CBP) in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“As a result, there has been more visibility for this
niche industry and much progress has been made.”
In 2016, CBP seized 42 shipments of unauthorized
replica furniture determined to be counterfeit
iconic mid-century modern design home and office
furniture. These seizures involved goods worth an
estimated $4.2 million if genuine. CBP’s furniture
enforcement efforts have helped to protect more
than 8,000 American jobs.
Homeland Security’s Intellectual Property Rights
Seizure Statistics are not yet released for 2017, but
the next CBP report is expected to show an increase
in confiscation of copies. “We look forward to
achieving greater successes as we continue to work
closely with all stakeholders,” states Moore.
Other enforcement actions involving violators
may include civil penalties, audits, and referrals to
the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
arm of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for
“With respect to the majority of CBP’s furniture
seizures, at issue were trademarked configurations
or designs, and not brand names or logos,” says
Moore. If a chair takes a similar shape but uses
different materials, is it a knockoff? CBP works
closely with rights holders and relies on the product
identification guides they have prepared for CBP.
“As we tell all our new members and renewals,
the key is for firms to visit the Intellectual Property
Rights e-Recordation page on the CBP website,
where they can record their trademarked and/or
copyright designs with U.S. Customs,” says Beth
Dickstein, co-founder of Be Original Americas and
CEO at bde. “That would be a huge step forward.”
is a New York City-based
specializing in content
creation and brand strategy
for the real estate and design
industries. She also is an
interior design consultant.
Quality at work:
ensure a company’s