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 June 1, 1999

Fresh Produce knocks off knock-offs

BOULDER — Officials at Fresh Produce Sportswear Inc. have only four little words to say to folks who would say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

See you in court.

The Boulder-based company, a maker of a resort-style clothing line, has been waging a battle against copycats via threatened litigation for almost a decade. They’ve always won — about half a dozen times — and they haven’t had to go to court yet.

“We typically copyright everything when it’s designed,´ said Thom Vernon, who, with Mary Ellen Vernon, founded the company in 1984. The colors and screen designs of the company’s sportswear line are copyrighted along with the body style patterns. Vernon said consumers and sales representatives call to report “knock-offs.”

“We’re pretty identifiable out their in the marketplace,” he said.

The company now has about 70 employees and revenues of $30 million, but Vernon said he still considers Fresh Produce a small company. He said most often it is a “David and Goliath” situation when the company goes up against giant corporate entities such as Target Stores. “Compared to them we’re a tiny company,” Vernon said.

Vernon said Target officials said the corporate giant had nothing to do with it because it was not the manufacturer of the clothing, only the distributor. But they settled one case out of court this year; Fresh Produce received an undisclosed amount.

The Vernons have instituted a “strict” corporate policy to hunt down and destroy imitations of its product produced by any business from “mom and pop” shops to corporate giants so its market will not be diluted. And the law is on the company’s side.

“The law is becoming increasingly clear that Fresh Produce Sportswear is protected from competitors creating confusion in the marketplace by appropriating Fresh Produce’s unique look, which Fresh Produce has spent over a decade cultivating,” Fresh Produce attorney Richard Sander said in a prepared statement.

Vernon said the monetary awards are not windfall profits because the settlements go into a “war chest to fight against these predators in the future. We feel we have to protect Fresh Produce from what amounts to corporate theft.”

BOULDER — Officials at Fresh Produce Sportswear Inc. have only four little words to say to folks who would say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

See you in court.

The Boulder-based company, a maker of a resort-style clothing line, has been waging a battle against copycats via threatened litigation for almost a decade. They’ve always won — about half a dozen times — and they haven’t had to go to court yet.

“We typically copyright everything when it’s designed,´ said Thom Vernon, who, with Mary Ellen…

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