A backpack from the Kassel fashion label Melawear piqued the interest of the drugstore chain dm. But instead of a cooperation, the drugstore chain suddenly brings an almost identical model onto the market itself. Coincidence, claims dm.
The shape is the same, as is the size, even the buckles and the zipper are in a similar place: If you are looking for differences between the two backpacks from Melawear and dm, you have to look carefully.
Five years ago, the Kassel-based fashion label Melawear, which specializes in sustainability, launched its “Ansvar I” model. “The backpack is of course something special for us because it is one of our most important products,” explains founder Henning Siedentopp. They have sold over 30,000 of them so far. “It is a product that is very closely interwoven with us.”
“Made in China” for 18 euros
The surprise at Siedentopp was all the greater when a very similar backpack suddenly appeared in another shop. Customers made him aware of this by email, he reports. They sent photos and asked if their backpack was now also available from dm. In fact, the drugstore giant has been selling an almost identical copy as a promotional product in its branches for several weeks.
The difference is in the details – and in the price. While the sustainable model from Melawear costs around 100 euros, there is the dm version for just under 18 euros. It is produced in China. Melawear, on the other hand, attaches great importance to quality and sustainability, the model name “Ansvar” stands for “responsibility”. 100 percent certified organic cotton is used for the backpack, and chemicals that are harmful to people or the environment are not used. Even when shopping, your backpack is more expensive than the dm model in the store, according to Siedentopp.
dm had samples sent to them
But the Melawear founder is annoyed not only about the great similarity, but also about the behavior of the drugstore chain. Because at the beginning of the year the company contacted the Kassel fashion label and showed interest in their products. Melawear sent samples, including the backpack. The dm particularly liked it, reports Siedentopp.
There were e-mails and video calls, but the expected response as to whether dm wanted to sell the products on his own did not materialize. “The fact that suddenly there was a product in dm’s store that looked very much like ours was of course completely surprising and a big shock for us.”
dm, on the other hand, rejects the allegations on request. These types of “rolltop rucksacks” would often be similar. “We expressed regret to Mela that the design of our rucksack is similar to the Mela rucksack,” explains Managing Director Sebastian Bayer. A closer look reveals numerous relevant differences. “It is our aim that products can be easily recognized as such by us, and we will pay more attention to this in the future.”
Expert: “At the limit of illegality”
But not only Melawear customers and the founder see a risk of confusion between the backpacks, but also patent attorney Thomas Reinhardt from Kassel. According to the experts, the dm model is still not a copy, but rather a “close model”. “In my opinion it is not illegal what dm has done – but it is at least to be located on the borderline of the illegal”, said Reinhardt.
On the one hand, dm did not put a label of the Kassel brand on his model. “So they actually did not mislead their origin,” explains the expert. On the other hand, Melawear itself did not protect its product. Reinhardt recommends that design protection should have been registered as soon as the rucksack went on sale. “Then you would now have a much better scope of protection and could presumably claim this reference to omission – that is, you could do something against the fact that this backpack was actually sold by dm in this guise.”
Protect products better in the future
Henning Siedentopp has learned from this experience and in the future wants to take a closer look at who he works with. “We were of course in good faith that with dm we had a potentially sustainable partner by our side.” He also wants to deal more intensively with possible legal protective measures.
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