The beloved SA fashion brand MaXhosa by Laduma has already moved towards legal action against global clothing giant Zara after it allegedly stole a signature design. MaXhosa consulted with Shane Moore and Muhammad Patel from Moore Attorneys, one of Africa’s leading IP law firms who are handling the matter on their behalf.
The local company sent Zara a letter of demand earlier this month. "We have taken such steps so as to avoid our works being appropriated and adapted without our consent or permission. Copyright infringement is a matter that we take seriously and fully aware of our intellectual property rights," Ntsika Tyatya, communications manager, tells Business Insider SA.
Tyatya says MaXhosa by Laduma has a copyright on the design, which it claims has been infringed by Zara.
"As the creator of your work, you have a right to copyright protection. You do not need to register it. It arises automatically as long as your work is original and is recorded in a material form, for example a photograph. This protects your work from being sold, reproduced or copied without your permission," according to South African fashion lawyer, Sumaiya De`Mar.
Laduma Ngxokolo started the clothing line as part of his final-year project at the Nelson Mandela University. He wanted to create a knitwear collection that reflected his isiXhosa heritage. His knitware, which has distinct patterns and colours, has garnered celebrity endorsements from across the globe – including from Beyoncé and Alicia Keys.
See also: From Beyoncé to Alicia Keys, the world is going nuts for South Africa's Maxhosa by Laduma knitware
Ngxokolo has been buying Zara merchandise for many years, says Tyatya. “As a patron of Zara, he is very disappointed that they copied his designs.”
Instances of similarities or outright copying in fashion are a common occurrence. Retailer Topshop was accused of copying young fashion designer, Jasmin Kianfar's garments. Just like Ngxokolo, Kianfar woke up to discover that high-street giant Topshop were selling a dress remarkably similar to one of her own.
Author of the notable blog "Fashion Law", Julie Zerbo, says small designers need defending because big retailers take advantage of the fact that they do not have the financial ability to take an alleged copycat to court. More than 40 artists and designers raised copyright infringement allegations against the international clothing retailer. Nuance, a New York-based wholesale textile company, filed suit against Zara for unlawfully copying its copyright-protected textile design and creating identical or substantially similar prints for their own benefit in 2016.