NATIONAL JEWELER 53 So how does protected work become subjected to so much infringement? The answer is one that is of great concern to today’s abundant crop of independent designers and small business operators. COPIES IN THE DIGITAL AGE Knockoffs aren’t a new issue for creatives, but the visibility of designs and their replicas is heightened in the digital era. Brands have more control over and more ways of communicating their image to consumers than ever before through social media, but the exposure they rely on to propel their careers also gives copycats unprecedented access to new pieces. This double-edged sword cuts for every designer working today; most consider social platforms somewhat of a necessary evil in this regard. “Y ou have to show what’s new to keep your customers interested and keep them coming back, but at the same time the people who are copy- ing will see it,” Kalan says. “There’s a positive and negative with social media.Y ou can’t help it.That’s the way it is.With social media our brand got bigger and stronger and better and recognized all over the world.At the same time, people who are going to copy are having an easier time.” Even when designers try to control the timing of product releases on social media, they’re not the only ones sharing. “Buyers and press are sometimes posting months before product hits stores,” says Azlee designer Baylee Zwart. “It’s the same thing that fashion deals with, having delivery dates so far from when we’re showing the collection. I’ve bumped up delivery dates in the past and I’m starting to deliver early because I think it helps getting items to market faster, which makes me feel a little more at ease that at least pieces are out consumer-facing.” When Zwart launched Azlee about four years ago, she hadn’t had a chance to even consider what protections her brand might need before she began seeing replicas of her designs. To date, her first collection is still her most copied. Like Kalan, Zwart has seen copies of her pieces rendered in various materials and at different price points, but the most difficult pill to swallow has been infringement from her fine jewelry contemporaries. “If someone’s knocking you off in a different metal, it’s hurtful but it doesn’t feel as much of a problem. It’s a totally different price point,” she explains. “But when a (fine jewelry) brand knocks you off and they’re working with similar stores that carry your work I think it definitely impacts business. I always think about the buyers, because it’s really hard for them to pick apart who did what first, along with consumers, especially when it’s someone who is functioning in your realm and is a comparable brand.” Kalan agrees. “The worst thing for me is when other designers take your ideas and just manipulate them a teeny- tiny bit and call it their own. I expect it from the companies in China or India whose business is just to copy and sell copies but I really don’t expect it from other fine jewelry designers, yet it’s been happening a lot.” Aside from the friction of copying among competitors, larger forces like retail chains and department stores can pose a Goliath-esque threat to small, independent companies. One fashion, accessory and jew- elry chain with hundreds of stores nationwide, which has long been a target of copying allegations from Suzanne Kalan’s “Fireworks” collection, pictured alongside a snap of the designer’s Instagram page, is the most synonymous with her brand, and the most copied by other designers and manufacturers.