Punk authenticity row hits eBay

The row over authenticity and the pioneering punk fashions of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood just took a turn for the weird.

THE LOOK can exclusively reveal a series of designs bearing striking similarities to key McLaren and Westwood creations which have been trademarked without their knowledge by a company unconnected with either of them.

//Left: Westwood orb 1987. Right: Red Planet orb 2008//

And, in a bizarre move, the same company recently attempted to copyright a design entitled “Destroy Jesus”; this consists of key elements of the notorious “Destroy” shirt as worn by the Sex Pistols and sold through McLaren and Westwood’s shop at 430 King’s Road in it’s 1976-79 incarnation as Seditionaries.

//Left: variations on Seditionaries design 1977. Right: “Destroy Jesus” application 2009//

The business behind this activity is Red Planet, most recently trading on eBay as Saint Art Junkie but previously known by a variety of names, including Too Fast To Live To (sic) Fast To Die Clothing Company.

Last week THE LOOK bought from Red Planet a t-shirt for £12 bearing a skull & crossbones logo and the phrase Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die. It came complete with a “free gift” tag carrying the same ident.

//Left: Vivienne Westwood t-shirt 2003. Right: Red Planet t-shirt purchased last week//

Operated by Tony Knight from an address in Droylsden, Manchester, the company has posted an announcement on eBay confirming that this trademark – number 1449591517 – along with others is registered with the Intellectual Property Office, the government body which controls intellectual copyrights. The cost of registering an apparel trademark with the IPO is less than £500.

The design is near-identical to the logo and name used by McLaren and Westwood for 430 King’s Road between 1972 and 1974. This has subsequently been revived and referenced by Westwood many times on t-shirts, knits and badges; THE LOOK has a Westwood tee bearing the phrase and logo bought as recently as 2003.

//Westwood MAN label 2000. Right: Red Planet Jeans trademark 2008//

The other trademarks registered with the IPO by Red Planet include two encircled orb and cross logos as well as the name “Worlds End apparel clothing”. Of course, World’s End is the name given to 430 King’s Road in 1980 (under which it continues to trade to this day). It is from here that Westwood carved out her reputation as an internationally recognized designer; the Gothic serif font used by Red Planet is close to the lettering she continues to use for her own-label designs.

//Too Fast To Live 1972. Pic: David Parkinson. Right: Red Planet tag, 2009//

An image indelibly associated with Westwood’s business is the encircled orb and cross, of which there have been a number of permutations since she introduced it with her “Harris Tweed” show of March 1987. It should be noted that the Harris Tweed Authority had the royal orb as it’s own trademark since 1911; it overlooked Westwood’s adoption since this was seen as introducing the mark to fresh generations of consumers.

Red Planet clearly states it is not associated with the Westwood business.  The designer’s name on it’s eBay listing is Vivienne or Vivian Peters. Together with the company title and other references, this creates the keywords: “Vivienne”, “Westwood” and “red”.

//Red Planet Worlds End logo 2008. Right: Vivienne Westwood red label 2001//

THE LOOK was alerted to Red Planet’s trademark registrations by disgruntled individuals claiming they have been barred by eBay from marketing repro McLaren and Westwood clothing at Red Planet’s insistence.

“I had a Destroy shirt for sale and it was withdrawn,” says an individual who requested anonymity. “eBay said it breached Red Planet’s trademark ownership. I thought that Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood designed these punk symbols of art?”

//eBay announcement posted recently//

In line with their non-conformist approach to the fashion business, neither McLaren nor Westwood has ever asserted their ownership of intellectual copyrights on the sale of reproductions of their 70s output of at least 30 t-shirt designs, bondage trousers, so-called Anarchy, Parachute, Peter Pan and muslin shirts and rafts of jackets and shoes.

The international trade in reproduction Sex and Seditionaries clothes is now a multi-million dollar business supplied by such specialists as Dangerously Close in the UK, Posers Of Hollywood in the US, 666 in Japan and King Mob, which closed operations earlier this year though was understood to have a manufacturing base in Thailand and traded on eBay.

Last year McLaren launched a campaign against reproduction clothes being marketed as originals, targeting in particular dealer/collector Simon Easton, who had sold a large number of disputed items to artist Damien Hirst for £70,000. Easton protested his innocence and outlined his case to THE LOOK here.

A spokesperson for Vivienne Westwood confirmed to THE LOOK that the company is looking into Red Planet’s IPO registrations, while McLaren admitted that he is flabbergasted by Red Planet’s actions. “This is extraordinary,” he adds. “The plot thickens.”

Our inquiries have revealed that Red Planet’s attempt to register “Destroy Jesus” with the IPO has failed, not because it infringes McLaren and Westwood’s copyright, but due to a moral objection being raised by an unnamed individual.

The IPO has confirmed to THE LOOK that “further proceedings” may be initiated into two more Red Planet trademarks

.When contacted by THE LOOK, Red Planet declined to respond to our inquiries.

***Three months after this story was posted Red Planet has contacted THE LOOK by submitting a number of comments disputing this story (though confirming they have registered these trademarks). The company has not made any direct contact via phone, post or email. We have written to Red Planet directing them to our legal representatives. The IPO has been unable to confirm whether it is carrying out the further proceedings indicated in the story. Until this matter is resolved we will not be publishing comments and have withdrawn any already made.***

FURTHER NOTE: Westwood successfully sued Knight for ownership of her marks in March 2011. See here for update.

planet mondo said,

June 2, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

I got stiffed with some cufflinks – bought after searching for ‘Vivienne’ + ‘Westood’ cufflinks, ordering and then realising they weren’t actually real VW items. The first pair broke but they sent a second pair..

[...] (i.e., counterfeits), the court held that the defendant’s use was ‘unacceptably close’ (see here for examples). In the first case to be decided under a newly accelerated and simplified court [...]

TONY KNIGHT said,

May 30, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

DEAR THE LOOK

THE CASE HAS BEEN APPEALED IN THE HIGH COURTS DUE TO THE JUDGE PREDJUDICE. THERFORE ANY FUTHUR CLAIMS MADE ON THIS SITE UNTIL AFTER THE APPEAL CAN CLASSED AS SLANDEROUS

THANK YOU

TONY KNIGHT

rockpopfashion said,

May 31, 2011 @ 8:59 am

Please provide details of the appeal – case number, court, judge etc.

For the general reader here is the judgment in this case: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWPCC/2011/11.html

And here is the specialist IP blog which has been following the case: http://www.ipkitten.blogspot.com/2011/03/too-fast-to-live-too-young-to-die-too.html

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