Gotti, Castellano, Gambino, Now Shein . . . Fuggetaboutit

Shein joined the big leagues this week alongside Gotti, Castellano and Gambino when a new lawsuit filed Tuesday claims that the online store takes part in “egregious” copyright infringement constituting racketeering.

The lawsuit was filed in California federal court this week by three designers claiming that they were shocked and “outraged” when finding their products copied exactly and sold on the online store. The lawsuit continues to claim that the products on Shein’s site were not just “close call” replicas with slight variations from the original designs, they are “truly exact copies of copyrightable graphic design” that Shein stole from these designers and sold as their own.

Shein supposedly produced 6,000 new items each day to keep their millions of site visitors on their toes and ready to shop. But with this amount of production, they allegedly partake in quite the pattern of copyright infringement. The lawsuit claims that the amount of replica designs the company sells on the website are more than enough to charge the fast-fashion mogul with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violation.

The lawsuit states “It is well established that egregious copyright infringement (of the type alleged here, and of the type referenced in other similar cases against Shein) constitutes racketeering.” Racketeering includes any illegal activity done through extortion or fraud and has a section protecting consumers from commercial fraud. Shein has also been accused of violating the RICO Act due to their deconstructed executive involvement.

The lawsuit says that Shein “is a loose and ever-changing (though still continuous even as some individual elements might change to be replaced by others) association-in-fact of entities and individuals,” making it hard to find “an appropriate defendant” to charge. The founder of Shein is a mysterious man named Chris Xu, or Xu Yangtian, who has numerous different reports of his background prior to starting the company.

Like the mob bosses, Shein has tried to play issues off as though they run a small family business. A designer involved in the recent lawsuit, Krista Perry, complained to Shein about her graphics being sold on the Shein and Romwe — a sister site of Shein — websites, telling them that it is “incredibly disheartening, insulting, and downright evil to profit off of artists without their knowledge or permission.” The lawsuit states that after submitting this complaint, Shein replied offering Perry $500, “as if it were a mom-
and-pop operation rather than one of the richest
enterprises in the world.”

With annual sales of nearly $30 billion, Shein has become the largest fashion retailer in the world. The lawsuit states that “Shein has grown rich by committing individual infringements over and over again, as part of a long and continuous pattern of racketeering, which shows no sign of abating.” We’ll see how many lawsuits and RICO violations it takes to actually either seriously check or entirely shut down the fast-fashion giant.

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