Identifying clear examples of copyright infringement in fashion is often a difficult task as copyright protection in the U.S. does not extend to the majority of useful articles (think: clothing and accessories, with some exceptions). So, when I come across such an instance, it is worth addressing, such as Cool Socks. The Chicago-based socks company, which has gotten quite a bit of press from the usual menswear sites, has managed to break various intellectual property laws with … socks. For instance, its Monogramasocks (an obvious play on the Marc Jacobs x Takashi Murakami collaboration (circa 2008) for Louis Vuitton, entitled Monogramouflage) are trademark infringing as Louis Vuitton has a federally registered trademark for its monogram print. This trademark extends to Class 25, which includes socks. That one’s easy. As for whether Louis Vuitton could claim copyright infringement, that is a bit more difficult to predict. The socks look quite similar (maybe even “substantially similar”) to the LV x Murakami print, but that would be an issue for a court/jury to address and would largely depend on the jurisdiction’s case law. Moving on …

It appears Cool Socks also targeted the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s florals in its “Superflat” socks (conveniently named after the Murakami-pioneered postmodern art movement). These socks very likely amount to copyright infringement, as the print is an original work created by Murakami, which gives Murakami exclusive rights to that print, including the right to reproduce and to distribute. The same logic likely applies to the “Rottweiler,” “Flower Blossom,” and “Birds of Paradise” socks, which include Givenchy prints, and thus, the copyright to these prints belongs to Riccardo Tisci-helmed design house.

The most interesting case (or pair, in this instance) is the “Corruption” style. An obvious ode to (or more likely a blatant copy of) Supreme’s 2013 Power, Corruption, Lies collection, which includes hoodies, t-shirts, skate decks, etc. with a very similar rose print, this may be one of the few pairs that Cool Socks sells that is actually legal. There’s quite a backstory to the rose print that Supreme used for its Corruption line and that Givenchy used for Fall 2013 (which you can read all about here), but in short, the print is derived from a painting that was created by Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour in 1890 and has been in the public domain since the 1970’s, making it free for anyone to use without the threat of copyright infringement (and graphic artist Peter Saville did just that, using it for New Order’s 1983 album cover art). So, while Cool Socks is quite obviously tapping into the known appeal of Supreme’s collection, as indicated by the name, it is probably all good.