What is "Genuine Design"?

Sometimes also called licensed or authorized design, it simply means that the creator approved the manufacture of the product. Take an Andy Warhol signed lithograph, for example, it is considered genuine because the author approved its release and sale to the public. If there was any defect in the print it would have been destroyed rather than signed.

It might be difficult to see the difference between the genuine Warhol and one that was pirated or printed without the permission of his estate, but there is one big difference: the genuine article has value and the knock-off doesn't. Modern furniture is no different.

The public has a right to expect that the DVDs they buy, the sneakers they wear and the handbags they carry are all authorized by the company that owns the rights. Counterfeit goods, gray-market products and deliberate trademark abuse don't just hurt the authors and manufacturers, they hurt the economy in general.

Just like artists, writers and other creative people, designers rely on royalties to earn a living. The next generation of designers will be forced into other professions if their earning ability is destroyed by rampant counterfeiting.

Spotting the Fakes

The differences may be hard to spot but they are significant, like the use of polished aluminum instead of chromed steel or painted leather instead of aniline dyed leather.

Online auction sites have a very high percentage of fakes: buyer beware!

Every designer and client should know the facts, so here are the manufacturers of the authorized versions:

• Le Corbusier, Rietveld, Mackintosh, Perriand furniture  - Cassina
• Barcelona chair - Knoll
• Eames chairs and Noguchi tables  - Herman Miller
• Josef Hoffmann furniture - Wittmann
• Pierre Paulin designs - Artifort
• Eero Arnio furniture - Adelta
• Eileen Gray - Classicon
• Alvar Aalto designs - Artek

• Jacobsen designs  - Fritz Hansen


Makers of designer knock-offs love to justify their unethical and illegal actions with specious arguments in order to create confusion in the mind of the consumer. Let's examine some of their "logic":

It's made to the original specs
So is a counterfit $20 bill

It's cheaper because we don't pay royalties
Just like the illegal DVDs sold on street corners

Comes with a certificate of authenticity
If the chair is fake, how real is that certificate?

The design is in the public domain
But what about trade dress and trademark infringement, and deceptive advertising?

Today, architects, designers, historians, reputable museums and legal experts all agree that the modern classics are protected legally, ethically and professionally. There is one genuine version and all others are fakes.

The Arcade of Ignominy

You won't believe some of the fakes, counterfeits, and gray market goods we found.

Genuine       Knock-off

Eileen Gray

Adjustable Table

Genuine version made by Classicon, sold at Topdeq      

Un-licensed knock-off sold at DWR

"…the source for fully licensed classics…"


Josef Hoffmann

Kubis Chair

Genuine version made by Wittmann, sold at M2L      

Cheap knock-off at SleekSpaces and dozens of other websites

(Get a free fake Eileen Gray table when you buy a fake Hoffmann chair)

Genuine Noguchi coffee table by Herman Miller, sold at authorized retailers       Knock-off "Noguchi Replica" table made and sold by Modernica


Read what the Wall Street Journal says about authentic designer furniture as an investment

click here


-What is genuine design?

-Spotting the fakes


-Arcade of Ignominy


"You don't steal a man's intellectual property just because he's dead"

- Mark Twain

  Got an opinion? Visit the Genuine Design Blog and post your comments.