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Culp has guns blazing in copyright fight
When Culp Inc. was granted copyrights on three microfiber patterns last May, design director Liam Waters told my colleague Gary Evans that it was “the greatest news to hit the streets in years.”
He said Culp officials were tired of seeing the three patterns — Palomino, Stampede and Wrangler — knocked off by a horde of imitators, and they were elated that the U.S. Copyright office finally agreed with their argument that the designs were unique and should be afforded copyright protection.
But instead of simply complaining about knockoffs, the company unleashed its legal team and went after companies it felt were infringing on the copyrights.
Since the copyright office made its decision, Culp has filed suit in federal court against at least five companies, including one headed by Tim Dolan, who used to be sales manager of Culp’s mattress ticking division.
One suit, filed against Mississippi upholstery producer Independent Furniture Supply, was voluntarily dismissed by Culp in early January, and a second, filed against fabric importer Direct Textiles, has been settled out of court.
But the others, which name Huntington Fabrics, Gum Tree Fabrics and Global Textile Alliance, remain active. And the action against Gum Tree looks like it could get especially nasty.
On Jan. 21, Gum Tree issued a statement that indirectly accused Culp of abusing copyright laws to limit competition. Gum Tree also described Culp’s copyright as “very questionable, because it looks like a very common item that has been available from many sources for many years.”
Six days later, Culp fired back with a statement of its own, saying that Gum Tree’s statements “are not suitable defenses to Culp’s copyright claim.” Culp said attempts to settle the issue out of court “have not been fruitful.”
That’s a diplomatic way of saying its patience is about to run out.