Designer Face Masks: Friend Or Faux? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Designer Face Masks: Friend Or Faux?

Designer Face Masks: Friend Or Faux?

If you step outside your New York City apartment, you will likely see window signs that read, “no mask, no service.” In a world where the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains high, the best line of defense is wearing a face mask.1 Back in April 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear face masks or coverings when they could not safely distance from one another in public.2 Months later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) implored all Americans to wear masks, citing scientific evidence supporting the claim that face masks significantly reduce the spread of the virus.3

It did not take long for fashion companies to recognize the potential growth opportunity in creating and commercially selling reusable, cloth face masks. Whether airbrushed in light tie-dye, adorned with floral prints, or embellished with glitter sequins, the face mask has become the latest fashion staple.4 While the overnight demand for cloth face masks has allowed fashion companies to innovate, it has also given rise to illegal counterfeiting.5

Counterfeit masks have saturated the market as they are readily available for purchase on sites like Etsy and Amazon.6 Simply scroll through Instagram’s explore page and find high-profile fashion influencers displaying what appears to be a unique, one-of-a-kind designer masks, such as custom-made monogrammed “LV” masks.7 However, this endorsement has negative consequences when influencers direct their followers to purchase masks from counterfeit accounts.8 The copycat Instagram page “Luxmasksglobal” now boasts thousands of followers and entices onlookers to buy custom-made “designer” masks, emblazoned with the beige and brown “GG” Gucci logo, for the bargain-basement price of $60 dollars.9

As of September 2020, Gucci has not produced commercial face masks10 and it is suspect that an authentic, luxury vendor would sell a Gucci product for merely $60 dollars. “Luxmasksglobal” and its progeny may be collecting profits by potentially misappropriating iconic designer prints. Counterfeiters can cause severe reputational damage to fashion houses who have built enduring legacies, like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, to name a few. Although these fashion houses may not initially engender empathy from the public, counterfeiting face masks is not a victimless crime. Because counterfeit masks could be manufactured in unsterile sweatshops that utilize toxic chemicals, fake mask buyers potentially risk endangering their health.11

The fight against the counterfeit face mask is a novel issue that has reached the attention of federal law enforcement. This past June, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in New Orleans seized over 2,000 counterfeit Chanel and Gucci masks imported from China and Vietnam.12 In seizing the illicit goods, federal agents are (1) helping protect the integrity of legitimate fashion brands and (2) keeping potentially harmful chemical products off the streets.13

Fake designer masks raise serious intellectual property, and more specifically, trademark concerns for major fashion companies who want to distance themselves from counterfeiters.14 While fashion houses, like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel vociferously condemn counterfeiting, many have failed to take legal action against the mask posers during the pandemic.15

In June 2020, however, Tommy Hilfiger went to battle against a textile manufacturing company in India who mass produced, advertised, and sold thousands of fake masks stitched with Tommy Hilfiger’s famous flag logo.16 Filing a case in the Delhi High Court, Tommy Hilfiger sought an injunction against Taqua Textiles and prevailed.17 Hopefully, other brands can follow Tommy Hilfiger’s footsteps to eradicate the exploitative and harmful cycle of counterfeiting which has only increased during the global pandemic.

  1. See Press Release, Ctrs. for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Calls on Americans to Wear Masks to Prevent COVID-19 Spread (July 14, 2020) (on file with author), [].

  2. N.Y. Exec. Order No. 202.17 (Apr. 15, 2020), [].

  3. Press Release, supra note 1.

  4. Vanessa Friedman, Should Masks Be a Fashion Statement?, N.Y. Times (April 22, 2020), [].

  5. Danny Parisi, The Rise of the Fake Designer Mask, Glossy (July 21, 2020), [].

  6. Id.

  7. Paige Cakey (@mspaigeycakey), Instagram (July 29, 2020),[].

  8. Haley Richardson, How FAKE Designer Face Masks Are Set to Become the Next Big Counterfeit Fashion Item, Daily Mail (Aug. 4, 2020), [].

  9. See id.; Lux Masks (@luxmasksglobal), Instagram (Sept. 5, 2020), [].

  10. Gucci, (last visited Sept. 14, 2020) [].

  11. See Counterfeit Fashion-Manufacturers Are Pivoting to Making Counterfeit Masks,  The Fashion L. (Mar. 31, 2020), [].

  12. Maddie Capron, Thousands of Counterfeit Gucci and Chanel Face Masks Seized by Border Officials, Miami Herald (June 17, 2020, 06:57 PM), [].

  13. See id.

  14. See Parisi, supra note 4.

  15. See Matthew Bultman, Trademark Cases Drop as Pandemic Fuels Uncertainties, Bloomberg L. (June 17, 2020), [].

  16. Natasha Bali, INDIA: Hilfiger Takes Down COVID-19 Counterfeiter in Style, International Trademark Ass’n(July 22, 2020),[].

  17. Id.; Tommy Hilfiger Europe B.V. v. M/S Taqua Textiles & Ors., CS (COMM) (Delhi HC) 160/2020.

Michelle Berardino

Michelle Berardino is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. She also competes on the Jessup International Law Moot Court Team and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from Fordham University.