The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For

A few weeks ago I saw a suggestion come across my Hulu welcome screen entitled “The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For”. My first impression was that I knew all about the brand, especially the many details of how it was counterfeited into oblivion. Either way, I knew I wanted to watch it to see if my account was correct or if there was more to the story.

Turns out, as comprehensive as I thought my perspective might have been, there were some things I missed, or was not privy to. I worked for their lawyers during the peak enforcement process and I knew things were a little off. And this documentary helps bring that to light.

Bobby Vaughn and Mike Cassel were two surfer dudes who appropriated the IP of a counterculture icon named Kenny Howard a.k.a. Von Dutch (1929-1992). Howard’s philosophy about Intellectual Property was that no one owned anything and that all creativity was meant for the world to share. So, in 1999, Vaughn and Cassel spun off the Von Dutch brand from another fashion line they had that was not doing well.

Before Bobby and Mike knew it, the Von Dutch brand took off. Celebrities were all over it, wearing their apparel on every television channel available. Along with the success of the brand came organized criminals they had previously tapped for startup funds. This made life difficult because there were established cartel captains that demanded cuts from the sales.

But the two surfer dudes, as savvy creatives as they were, could not manage the explosive success of this brand. It was then that they welcomed investors and a CEO from Europe. All of a sudden, French fashion designer Christian Audigier was the face of the brand. Christian blew the brand up to levels no one dreamed. But, as the genuine product sales grew, the counterfeit sales grew exponentially.

“Here’s the problem. When you are already a logo-driven brand where your logo is your main seller its easy to slap a logo on a piece of thing and sell it and call it Von Dutch. We were the second most counterfeited brand in the world next to Louis Vuitton.” ~ European Investor Tonny Sorensen.

This was where my team and I came in. In the early 2000’s, counterfeiting fashion brands on the Internet was at its peak. Yes, the flea markets and street vendors were also going bananas, but Internet sales were new, and I was the guy that handled these types of cases.

What was discovered was that the folks behind this brand never laid a proper foundation for enforcement. They didn’t spend the few cents per item required to tag the genuine goods properly so that they could be differentiated from the fake. By the time they brought in the proper attorneys and investigators, the problem was out of control there was very little that could be done.

“In the height of our business, we were doing probably around the $300 to $400 million mark. The counterfeits were north of a billion for sure.”~ Niels Juul, Von Dutch investor

I’ve met both of the original creatives Bobby and Mike during my years living in Venice Beach and find their stories fascinating. I don’t blame them for the counterfeiting problem (bringing in the cartels is another story). But, when the European investors came in and hired high-priced attorneys corners were cut while people were too busy making money.

The lesson to learn here is that, before your brand takes off, make sure you have already laid the foundation for a good enforcement plan. We can help you with that. Contact us at MI:33 and we will be glad to get things going for you.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Goodbye Yellow Brick RoadWhen I was a small child in the 1970’s we often planned our lives around what was airing on network television. We browsed a weekly magazine called ‘TV Guide’ that provided schedules of what would be on. I fondly remember the annual airing of the classic 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”. In preparation, my siblings and I would get in our pajamas and lay on blankets in the living room. To make the experience complete, our parents popped popcorn for us to chow down on. Continue reading “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

Good Food + Bad Laws = Unlikely Hero

Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles is a Los Angeles soul food restaurant and a staple of local cuisine since the 1970’s. The strange flavor combination along with its addictive recipe has gone unquestioned for decades, and has been immortalized by pop culture figures such as Quentin Tarantino, Ludacris, Will Smith, and Snoop Dogg.

Continue reading “Good Food + Bad Laws = Unlikely Hero”

Why The Black Panther Newspaper Matters

In today’s entertainment world, it is hard not to know about the massive Marvel-Disney blockbuster Black Panther. Most of us rushed to the theaters to see it, as we do every MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) film. I mean, come on! Not only was it the first-ever African-American comic character to have his own film, but it was the last solo film before the much-anticipated battle royale “Avengers: Infinity War” scheduled to be released that Spring. Like all of the characters in these films (such as Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, and Thor) Black Panther was based on a comic character. As someone who was a child in the 1970’s, I have vivid memories of T’Challa fighting bad guys alongside The Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Spidey. Continue reading “Why The Black Panther Newspaper Matters”

Righteousness (Not Religion) Is the Root of Conflict

I have spent so much of my life watching the battle between the religious and the non-religious. Who’s right? You have to admit most religion is based on an old book that hardly anyone reads. On the other hand, we owe so much of our civilization to the writings in these books. One day, I heard someone professing to be an atheist saying that all wars and conflict in this world exist because of religion. However, I have found in the last decade or so that more religious persecution was coming from the non-religious. Let me explain…

Continue reading “Righteousness (Not Religion) Is the Root of Conflict”

The Case for Textualism

When it comes to the interpretation of the United States Constitution, there are two schools. One school is called Textualism and the other Living Constitutionalism. The first argues that the original intent, and the exact written words, should be what is adhered to. The latter believes that there were horses, buggies, and muskets when it was written and the meaning should evolve with the times. Here is my argument against the latter theory. Continue reading “The Case for Textualism”

Value of Human Life, Examined

Human LifeHave you ever been in a situation where you saw that people died and thought, “Thank God it wasn’t X”? It may have been a plane crash on a flight where someone you care about could have been a passenger but wasn’t. Perhaps it was a violent attack near a loved one’s home or workplace. Either way, there has been a moment when you were appreciative that someone else died in the place of a person you love. Whether you believe it or not, you wished for another person to die. Continue reading “Value of Human Life, Examined”

Date Night Rebooted

After Nastassia and I got married, we quickly fell into a routine, as most newlyweds do. We both worked full-time jobs, and soon established Friday night as a sacred ‘Date Nite’. Why Friday nights? You may assume that it was because Friday is a traditional night for a date. You’d be wrong. After we became a couple, I realized that the “The X-Files” was her favorite show. Even though I made it to the party a couple seasons late, I still joined with enthusiasm. Continue reading “Date Night Rebooted”

Why Felix the Cat is a Detective Hero

Felix ChevroletI was running an errand the other day in Downtown Los Angeles. As a big fan of classic Hollywood and detective fiction, I relish in the landmarks and mainstays, from the outdoor urban paradise of MacArthur Park to the crowds of bustling travelers at Union Station; from the authentic Hispanic heritage so beautifully displayed on Olvera Street to the architectural marvel of the Bradbury building (where, by the way, the most cinematic scene from “Blade Runner” was shot). But none of them tickle me as much as the iconic Felix the Cat sign atop the almost century-old Felix Chevrolet. Continue reading “Why Felix the Cat is a Detective Hero”

Holmes Alone™ “On White Privilege”

If you’ve been following me on social media recently, you may have seen that I have launched a new vlog (video blog) originally entitled “Rob’s Readings” due to the fact that each day I read some quotes from the book “637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said”. Each vlog is comprised of one or two minutes of levity for the day, a recommendation or two, and some quotes. The goal is to provide a smile from a friendly face during these often frustrating times. Continue reading “Holmes Alone™ “On White Privilege””