The Chinese fashion company Ellassay, in accordance with the decision of the Shenzhen People’s Court, presented a public apology to high-end Italian mannequin brand Bonaveri, in the authoritative economic newspaper Shenzhen Economi Daily, after being sentenced to civil compensation including punitive damages for counterfeiting and copyright infringement of the Aloof mannequin collection.

The dispute that began in the Shenzhen Futian District People’s Court concerned the counterfeiting and marketing of a collection of mannequins on which Ellassay claimed to own the copyright. Bonaveri, with the assistance of the Italian and Chinese legal team of GWA Law, Tax & Accounting, proved the infringement and obtained copyright recognition in China.

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The Ellassay brand is headed by Shenzhen Ellassay Fashion, one of the main clothing players in China, founded in 1996 and listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange since 2015.

Ellassay had not only copied the collection of Aloof mannequins produced by Bonaveri, but had also claimed the copyrights, claiming to have designed and developed the product internally, and registering the copyright with the competent body, the National Copyright Administration of the People’s Republic of China.

After a long controversy and a direct comparison between the pieces of evidence brought by the companies, both at first instance and on appeal, the judge verified the lack of the creative process by Ellassay and therefore ascertained the counterfeiting of models belonging to Bonaveri.

The Court recognised the Italian company full copyright over the Aloof collection, and the ownership, later confirmed in the second instance, to seek compensation for damages for appropriation of copyright and sale of counterfeit products.

The Shenzhen Court thus sentenced Ellassay to pay compensation for economic damages with an additional punitive part, decreeing the destruction of all the moulds and copies produced, the payment of commercial interests and a statement of public apology to be presented at his own expense on the Chinese print.

The sentence represents an important milestone in the protection of mannequin models in China, which has always been very complex. It is a recognition of the creative process, of the protection of the model intended as an artistic creation, of the rights to this creation and their consequent violation. The sentence of the Shenzhen Court intervenes in favour of Made in Italy and the safeguarding of the work of those who work every day in the name of quality, excellence, sustainability and creativity.

“Copying a product means to appropriate not only the result of a job, but the work itself that allowed it to be created” declares Andrea Bonaveri, CEO of Bonaveri “Protecting Made in Italy means to protect research, know-how, ‘commitment, activities and all the professional people involved in the production process: from conception to final realisation”.

China is adopting a policy of greater regulatory protection and sensitization of judges on the growing problem of counterfeiting: a recent OECD study underlines that the country is the first producer of counterfeit goods and Italy the third country most affected by the trade in “fakes”.

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