Why I’m Not Opposed to Dupe Makeup

We’ve all seen them – less expensive makeup items that “dupe” items from more expensive brands. Many beauty enthusiasts have an opinion on dupe makeup, and some choose not to support brands that copy the intellectual property of other creators. I’ll start by saying that I encourage everybody to vote with their wallets in a way that resonates with their own personal beliefs.

That said, most of the people I’ve seen or talked to that expressed an opinion against dupe makeup did not offer a rationale for their stance beyond being anti-copycat. I have far more respect for the anti-dupe stance when it comes from a well-informed place rather than an ill-informed snap judgement. To place myself on the well-informed side of the fence, I am sharing here the perspective that informs my own opinion on dupe makeup.

I do purchase some dupe makeup items. I also create videos using some dupe makeup items. I am not opposed to buying or using or supporting or promoting dupe makeup brands that operate within the boundaries of trademark law.

I’ve had people comment here and there unsubscribing when I do dupe videos, because “how can I support plagiarism of someone else’s intellectual property?” The world just isn’t that conveniently black and white. I’m a creator, both for fun and a career (photography and web design professionally). I understand copyright law and trademark law and surely don’t want my work copied or passed off as someone else’s without due credit. That’s an ethical preference of mine, and legally I can prevent people from stealing my work through copyright and trademark law.

But most of these dupe makeup items (at least the ones I choose to purchase) are not breaking the law, despite operating in that ethical gray area. The packaging and product designs of an eyeshadow palette, for example, fall under trademark law, and to be registered as trade dress, the design needs to be unique such that it is considered distinguishable to specifically that one maker – the design must have “source-indicating function” in order to be registrable.  A color scheme in an eyeshadow palette is virtually impossible to register as source-indicating. It’s not something that in and of itself is so unique that it could only be identified with a single maker.

The KVD Saint and Sinner palette, for example – the stained glass window packaging might qualify, as a consumer looking at that immediately identifies it as unique to KVD; but the color selection inside, not so much. A dupe maker could release an eyeshadow palette of similar colors with different naming/packaging, and it would not be an infringement. And packaging doesn’t always qualify as unique enough to be source-indicating; the KVD palette is an exceptional example.

So while dupe makeup brands are operating in an ethical gray area, they’re not breaking the law, and there are enough positives in that ethical gray area in my opinion that I choose to purchase their products.

  1. The quality of these particular dupes is so good at such a reasonable price that I see an opportunity to push higher end brands to either step up their quality (to justify the price) or step down their prices based on the competition, and
  2. There are many people that cannot afford the (often over-priced) high end versions, and these dupes offer the same opportunity for creative self expression and enjoyment of makeup at a price point more people can afford.

So, yeah. Everyone is free to have their own opinions and vote with their wallets, and I encourage everybody to do so in a way that resonates with their own personal beliefs. I choose to purchase (and by way of that purchase, financially support) brands that create dupe makeup items within the boundaries of the law.

I don’t make the rules; I just spend my money based on them. 😀

Written by Shelly