Fast Fashion Giant Shein Faces RICO Lawsuit for Alleged Criminal Copyright Infringement

Fashion retailer Shein sued in RICO case over designs.


Shein, a popular fast fashion retailer, recently faced a surprising legal challenge when it was hit with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by designers Krista Perry, Larissa Martinez, and Jay Baron, who accused Shein of producing, distributing, and selling exact copies of their creative works.

The RICO case hinges on the plaintiffs' claim that Shein is part of a "de-facto association of entities" that engage in criminal copyright infringement knowingly. This accusation goes beyond the typical copying of designs seen in the fast fashion industry, as it suggests deliberate and systematic copyright infringement, indicating a possible criminal enterprise.

Susan Scafidi, founder, and director of the Fordham Fashion Law Institute shed light on the matter. She explained that fast fashion companies often follow trends and create their own versions of designs. However, in Shein's case, the sheer volume of copying, coupled with a lack of willingness to settle with the original creators, led to the RICO claim.

Furthermore, the lawsuit against Shein could serve as a precursor to similar issues that may arise with the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the fashion industry. As Shein uses an algorithm to identify trends and designs, it raises questions about how to establish willful infringement when machine learning is involved.

While Shein might face a significant reputational blow from the lawsuit, it is unlikely to result in the company's demise. The case is primarily a civil one seeking monetary damages, and the plaintiffs are hoping for a settlement rather than a protracted trial. However, the legal battle has sparked interest and concern about the ethical practices of fast fashion brands and their treatment of original creators. The outcome of this case may influence the behavior of similar companies in the future, possibly leading them to take measures to avoid infringing on copyrighted designs.