Practice area highlights
Richman, pictured here with Milly CEO Andrew Oshrin, helped wrestle the
domain name Milly.com from a porn site.
How CEO training and a sense of humor helped Monica Richman build a fashion IP practice
BY AMY KATES
Scoring front-row seats at New York Fashion Week so close to the runway
that a swirl of Michael Kors chiffon caresses your cheek is big. But the hot-
test ticket in town might be a spot on Monica Richman’s Christmas list.
“Each year, I choose one of [my clients] and purchase in bulk,” says the
Dentons intellectual property attorney.
One Christmas, this meant home décor swag from ED by Ellen DeGe-neres. Another year, she purchased DVD copies of TV client A&E’s Emmy
Award-winning series America: The Story of Us and packaged them with
faux-vintage popcorn machines. She also once purchased 130 scarves
from accessories outfit Lions in Four.
“They created a factory in India and are helping to teach women
and underprivileged populations how to create dyes to make bags and
scarves so they can learn to support themselves,” she says. Her purchase
was enough to keep the factory going for a month.
Richman’s business of repping businesses—mostly fashion houses,
luxury brands and entertainment—finds its roots in her family’s story.
“I grew up in the record industry,” Richman says. “My dad started
our wholesale business when the Beatles hit. We opened our first store
[Sound Odyssey] when I was 4. We eventually had 25. I remember him
hammering the red shag carpet in our first store while I was doing cart-
wheels because nobody had money to hire a babysitter.”
By her teens, Richman was working in the family biz, which came in
handy once she switched to law. “When I was a young associate, partners
would ask, ‘Oh, can you help with this?’ and we realized by accident the
industries I was good at. I understood retail and wholesale.”
Her fashion work started 15 years ago, and Milly was among her first clients.
“I have watched their whole lifespan,” she says, “from their beginnings,
to helping with their continued, explosive growth.”
Richman handles a wide variety of legal work for Milly. Take domain
names. Milly’s was MillyNY.com because Milly.com was already taken. By
a porn site. “So on social media people would say, ‘Went to Milly.com. Big
mistake.’ … It was hurting business.”
There was no legal recourse, either, until two years ago. Then, Richman
says, “they dropped the porn site and put up a holder site that linked to
competing clothing companies. Because of that, a panel accepted our
argument, which was novel—one of the first impression cases of why a
domain name should be transferred to somebody who started after it was
registered. They transferred Milly.com to Milly. There was a significant
increase in sales, and there was no longer a reputational risk.”
While Richman admits the case was fun, fashion law is serious business.
“There are so many levels,” she says. “It’s global manufacturing. It’s
supply-chain issues. It’s worrying about getting things in from customs. It’s patrolling someone taking a photo at Fashion Week, texting
the picture to China, and having the design completely ripped off and
manufactured there before the original even hits stores. Fashion is the
third- or fourth-largest business in New York. That deserves to be taken
very seriously.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 138