Today I want to talk about the recent terrible news for the BJD community. As you may have heard, a known BJD recaster / counterfeiter, Mr. Luo, has taken steps to register trademarks in China that belong to legit brands and companies. He is also trying to do this in Europe and the USA. In a single step, he is attempting to make his illegal business – a business which steal from the sculptors and artist who bring us BJDs – into a legal business.
If you haven’t heard of this case yet, please check out the articles by Den of Angels, Musume of My Dolly Adventures, and @puffypuffers on Instagram. There’s a lot of good information there and I won’t repeat everything here; suffice to say, Mr. Luo is attempting to gain ownership of trademarks belonging to dozens of BJD artisans, including Peak’s Woods, Little Monica, Leeke, and Rosenlied.
The way Chinese trademark law is written, trademarks belong to the first to register them, not the first to use them. Even though the 49 BJD companies targeted have been using these trademarks for years, many of them haven’t registered those marks in China, so there is still a good chance that Mr. Luo will be able to register them successfully.
What about legal action?
Several companies including Withdoll and Doll Heart are looking into opposing Mr. Luo’s trademark registrations. However, several others have stated that they don’t feel they have the power to oppose it. With how the trademark law is written, even if they can prove that they are the owners of the trademark and have been using them for years, that might not be enough to cancel Mr. Luo’s registration if they didn’t register the marks first. (Again, please check out the links above – especially Musume’s blog post – for more details.)
What does this mean for the BJD community?
For hobbyists, it means that it will become even harder to determine if secondhand dolls are legit or recast. It means that shopping on Taobao, Ebay, and Yahoo will become more risky. But that is the least of it: For the companies, it means that Mr. Luo can use their trademarked images and sell counterfeit dolls and they will have no legal recourse.
Worst case, it could lead to the legit BJD companies going out of business. While the larger companies are probably safe, smaller companies and independent artists are at risk of losing profits, which could mean closing the shop.
My take on this situation
Honestly, I don’t know what to say. This is a terrible example of the crimes against artists – yes, crimes. Stealing someone else’s work is a crime. And it makes me sad. I’d hoped that at least my hobby could remain happy and carefree, free from such drama. I’d even hoped that the recast problem was lessening, since I saw so many people say, “I’m #ProArtist!” and “Say no to recasts!” But no such luck, eh?
As an artist myself, I am of course #ProArtist. But I’ve never really felt the need to declare it, here on my blog or on social media. To be honest, I also felt that sharing my opinion wasn’t likely to change anyone else’s mind anyway. But Mr. Luo’s attempt to register these trademarks shows that there is enough support for recasts to make this action profitable – and that is a sad state of affairs.
If you are in this hobby, I can hopefully assume you love the beautiful design of these dolls, designs that artists around the world worked to bring to life. Please, if you love their work, support them. Don’t support recasters like Mr. Luo, who try to profit off of the artist by making counterfeits. Don’t help them profit off of other’s designs.
I know that my opinion probably won’t change the mind of someone who truly believes that purchasing counterfeits and recasts isn’t a problem. And I know that most of my readers are probably #ProArtist already. And if you aren’t. . . if you’ve just heard the news, or never really thought about recasts before, or even if you didn’t think there was anything wrong with recasts. . . please, take some time and consider it. Every recast sold is hurts the artist who originally made the doll. It might be cheaper to purchase recasts, but that doesn’t make it right.
Support the Artists. Say No to Recasts.