The $4 billion problem designers can’t shake

The Eames lounge chair and ottoman are icons of mid-century American design. With a curved plywood back and playfully tufted upholstery, they look as fresh in 2021 as they did when they debuted 65 years ago.

The  billion problem designers can’t shake

They are also relentlessly copied. Search eBay, and dozens of fakes appear. Sometimes the product descriptions are modified and misspelled to avoid explicitly misleading consumers (“Eams Style”). Other times, they outright lie and say the furniture is genuine. On Google Shopping, more than half of the top hits are replicas. The biggest giveaway is the price: The original costs $5,500 and up. Fakes usually cost $600 to $1,200. Cheaper but not exactly cheap.

The Eames lounge chair is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of designs counterfeited then sold to consumers. The rise of e-commerce has made it exceedingly easy for knockoff artists to sell replicas of popular furniture at a fraction of the original cost. Designers and manufacturers have some legal recourse, but not much. Many describe the process of combating knockoffs as a game of whack a mole: As soon as you shut down one company, another pops up.