Image source: Azza Fahmy
Copyright law is a vast conversation and an evident factor for luxury brands in particular. Europe is notorious for cultivating advanced regulations, starting with the way designers document their copyrights and what they can protect, including shapes, colors, certain designs, etc. In Egypt, protection is related to registering each and every piece, which is both time and money consuming.
With five decades of innovation and history under its belt, Egyptian family-owned business, Azza Fahmy Jewellery, has had to reinvent its methods multiple times to keep pace with the evolving world. Nonetheless, the brand's biggest challenge has proved to be countering copiers.
The company recorded a 38% growth rate in 2017, and is expecting to recorded 30% growth for 2018. The high-end jewelry brand is known for introducing Arabic calligraphy and Pharaonic emblems to jewelry design—a style that has been copied on multiple occasions.
"Recently, we have won two copyright cases,” shares Fatma Ghaly, Azza Fahmy's managing director and business development specialist. “Copying is something that we are absolutely against. After registering each and every design, we often approach copiers for negotiations before resorting to legal action."
According to Ghaly, the brand recently obtained judicial decisions from the Cairo Economic Court against two Cairo-based jewelers. One case was documented after comparing two copied designs to two of Azza Fahmy's original designs, which are legally protected by law until 2024; the second was filed based on a complaint by Azza Fahmy's team regarding a copied ring.
"We love to use the words 'culture' and 'heritage' to describe our aesthetic because we are inspired by all different parts of the world. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we are Egyptian to the core and that comes out through our DNA effortlessly,” says Ghaly. "We have had collections inspired by Ottoman jewelry, Victorian history and African culture."
The designer explains that Egyptian copyright law is divided into different levels. The most basic level ensures that if a designer publishes something and has proof of when it was communicated, they can protect their creation against any later copies. Nonetheless, this action does not secure firm protection. The next level is to register the designs before acquiring the copyrights and finally the trademarks.
"The strength of copyright laws is fundamental to increase foreign investments and encourage local traders, inventors, authors and artists," explains Passant Abaza, senior associate at Eldib & Co. law firm - credited with registering the first trademark in Egypt almost a century ago.
Ghaly belives that more concrete regulations and easier processes are needed. Protecting design can save many businesses and promising brands - ultimately, creations should not be disclosed, published or launched until protected through the suitable channels.
"Creatives need to know the differences between different types of intellectual property. They vary between industrial property, copyrights and literary work,” says Abaza. "The assistance of an expert specialized in this field is essential to protect intellectual property against any kind of infringement or piracy.”
Ghaly is the daughter of jewelry designer, Azza Fahmy. With more than 220 employees, the international luxury-designer is an advocate of hand-made artistry. Designs are often intricate wearable-art inspired by 7,000 years of history and heritage.
Azza Fahmy Jewelry currently has more than 18 retail doors worldwide, including two shops in Jordan, one in Bloomingdales in Dubai, a regular pop-up shop in Washington's George Town and a recently opened new boutique at the Waldorf Astoria in Los Angeles.
"In my opinion there is not a certain point, when you can say I am international now. It’s a progression that you should constantly work towards," says Ghaly. Having recently opened the company’s first UK flagship store, she is now focused on further international expansion using London as a launchpad. "We still have our concentration focused on London, one shop is not even near the potential of that market. Meanwhile, our dream is the Chinese market."