On February 17, Global Fashion Management students attended a fundraising event for Cardozo School of Law’s newly launched Fashion, Arts, Media and Entertainment Law Center (FAME) which was created to train law students for jobs in New York City’s creative industries. Cardozo’s collaboration with Global Fashion Management to provide legal council to GFM’s “clients” for the capstone course is part of this curriculum.
John Idol, CEO Michael Kors, and Lee Sporn, General Counsel of Michael Kors, discussed the evening’s topic, “The Intersection of Luxury and Law” through a series of questions from moderator Leslie Fagan, Senior Partner at Paul Weiss. Mr. Idol pointed out that at Kors, knowing the law is very much part of doing business, and protecting the brand, and employees, is under constant review. The relationship between a CEO and general counsel was described as “complex,” where business expansion and innovation were inevitably balanced by legal obligations.
When asked about how the company deals with counterfeit products, both executives agreed that no brand can be completely protected because it’s simply too easy for a violation to occur, especially through online sales. Mr. Idol also commented on the unending challenge to protect the brand in every country in which you do business, and where legal protection is subject to broad interpretation.
Regarding intellectual property in design, Mr. Sporn believes that the law provides enough protection, although many in this country and around the world may not agree. Mr. Idol said, if you have to ask ‘where is the true innovation,’ it could be a difficult case to prove, adding that less law often results in pressure to always do better as a designer.
On the question of licensing, Mr. Idol said that while owning your own business is for him, preferred, it’s also necessary to work with those with expertise in, for example, fragrance and eyewear. He stressed the importance of a stable working relationship, and one that you have confidence will work from the start.
John Idol and Lee Sporn, who have worked together for twenty-five years, were clearly in tune on the demands of balancing the functions of a CEO and general counsel in managing a wildly successful public and global company. In addition to his position as general counsel (which at Kors, includes a considerable list of additional responsibilities) Mr. Sporn teaches Cardozo’s fashion law practicum course with Global Fashion Management.