The mind of an artist or designer is a constantly running machine of creativity, whether it’s looking through the archives for inspiration or sourcing fabrics for their next collection, but it’s the small details, which produce a functioning business that are more often than not, overlooked. In the contemporary world of streetwear, we’re seeing a rising number of talents that seemingly appear out of nowhere and as they put the finishing touches on their latest graphics or are sending out the sample to be produced on a large scale, they are rarely concerned with protecting the work they’ve created from a legal standpoint. Imitators, bootleggers, artists that pay homage, or whatever you want to call them, will always be out there and ready to jump on an opportunity to ride the wave and make a quick buck. A sound business structure and plan is usually the last aspect that concerns creative individuals and within the street culture realm, this lack of foresight has given birth to countless disputes, as well as cease and desist letters. However, what happens when you’re just making stuff you like and you weren’t thinking about developing a business in the first place but then it starts to take off? Chances are you don’t even know who you can go to, who not only understands the intricacies in creating a sound business plan, but also understands and respects what you’re trying to do.
D*FACE, “As a visual artist working in public, you can be an easy target for copyright infringement, it’s reassuring working with Jeff to know he has your back and is looking out for you.”
Combining a passion for streetwear, culture and art with a passion for legislation Jeff Gluck is the lawyer that streetwear brands and artists have gone to for anything from corporate structure to disputes. His record includes cases against the likes of Roberto Cavalli and Moschino, and his focus involves intellectual property litigation, protecting artists, as well as designers against copying. We took the opportunity to sit down with Jeff and pick his brain about what these creative individuals face and what they need to prepare for if they don’t want to face problems down the line.
It is important for anyone who believes they may have been copied to contact a lawyer, and resist the temptation to lash out on social media. Be smart.
How did you decide to go into this route of law where you’re working with streetwear brands and artists?
I met Curtis Kulig through mutual friends and he became my first client when I opened my own firm. He recommended me to other artists and other brands, which helped everything grow. I soon realized how often artists and designers get copied and ripped-off, and no one was helping them, so that became my focus.
What’s your connection with the streetwear community?
Growing up, I was always interested in counter-cultures and skate culture, as well as the role they play in fashion and art. I went to NYU in the late 1990’s. Every weekend, my friends and I would be downtown going to Supreme, Clientele, SSUR, and Union. There was always something about what those brands stood for that resonated with me. It was an attitude. I am grateful to be representing some of those brands today.
Russ Karablin (SSUR), “Jeff is not only an amazing sounding board for legal issues for me, but also has an intelligent understanding of the artist environment. We artist types understand and appreciate him very much.”
Can you share some of the most common mistakes in terms of structuring, legal etc. brands make when they start out?
Many brands start out as “bedroom t-shirt companies,” which seems to give young designers the environmental freedoms needed to create something raw and authentic. The problem arises when the brand experiences huge growth seemingly overnight. They have to play catch up and get organized very fast, which often results in missed opportunities, ordering too much or too little inventory, signing ridiculous contracts, negotiating bad deals, unprotected intellectual property, shipping and logistic failures, and fighting between partners. Organizing and structuring your company properly, and securing trademark and copyright protections, should be just as important as your first drop.
When do legal disputes most commonly occur within streetwear and can you share some examples?
My focus is intellectual property litigation. The most common dispute stems from copyright infringement allegations. This occurs when an original work is allegedly copied and exploited commercially without permission from the author. Recently, this has been happening quite frequently in contemporary graffiti culture. For example, I represented Revok, Reyes, and Steel against Roberto Cavalli, as well as Rime against Moschino.
KESH, “Jeff delivers. He understands and respects the emotional connectivity between his clients and their artwork. He approaches each case with passion and recognizes that it’s more than just a stolen image”
What is usually the process when there’s a legal dispute?
The process usually begins with a Cease & Desist Notice from an attorney, which is a formal demand laying out the allegations and asking the infringing entity to cease and desist the unlawful use. It is important for anyone who believes they may have been copied to contact a lawyer, and resist the temptation to lash out on social media. Be smart.
For most people, there’s a fear that it costs exorbitant amounts when hiring lawyers, is it possible to get legal advice without paying?
For litigation purposes, I often work on a contingency fee basis. My clients only pay me if I get them paid. There are no other costs or fees. By doing this, I am able to level the playing field and empower them to take on larger corporations who rip them off.
In the realm of streetwear right now, we’re seeing a lot of “parody” work such as directly copying logos or graphics, maybe sometimes changing them around a little bit, how is this all possible without legal disputes arising?
There is a fine line. Parody is an exception to copyright infringement falling under the legal doctrine called ‘fair-use.’
How has the legal landscape in fashion changed over the past few years with the rise of the internet and access to all this free information?
The internet has obviously changed everything. It has been an important catalyst for creativity, enabling designers to find influence and collect inspiration like never before. However, it has also become an easy and fast conduit for copying and stealing designs.
Jeff will be available to answer any questions you have about the legal or corporate side of your work in the comments section.
These testimonials or endorsements do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. The materials presented are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.