Dear Warby Parker,
The eyewear industry is huge - it’s around $20B in the US alone. The online eyewear industry, is, however, in a nascent stage. I’ve always thought that we should be working alongside one another to validate an enormous market that is in much need of change.
My co-founder Richard and I have built our brand and company from the grassroots level. We sell our glasses online as well as in-person every weekend at the Brooklyn Flea. Our sales keep growing because we have a great product that people love (and that we hand deliver if you’re nearby) and because we have a very attractive dog as a mascot.
We love what we are doing. We live for the emails from customers gushing about all the compliments they get on their new eyeglasses - it’s a great feeling at the end of a long day.
We want to grow our company, and given the traction we’ve achieved and our vision for the future, we’ve been having a number of great meetings with advisors and potential investors lately. That’s why we were surprised to hear that someone was telling them, “hey..make sure you know the full story behind Classic Specs (wink).”
We’d like to clear some things up in this letter so we can get back to building an awesome company.
Let’s start with the cease and desist you sent us two days after we launched in October 2010. Did you expect us to just pack our bags and close up shop? Not sure about you guys, but I grew up in Brooklyn so I’m here for the long haul.
After launching a beta version of our site, we received a long letter from your attorney. The letter arrived on Friday October 15, 2010, not 2 days after we began selling our products. Very impressive on the response time - I didn’t even think our marketing was that good yet, but you came across our site somehow. Actually, our first order came from a WP employee..thank you!
After receiving your letter, our attorney, Robert Clarida, of Cowan Liebowitz and Latman followed up with your attorney (we have email and phone logs). Our attorney spoke with your counsel on October 19th and informed you that we were not in violation of any laws - that, basically, your claims were unjustified. We NEVER received any paperwork or even a response from you or your attorney following that contact (of note: still nothing 16 months later).
In case they weren’t clear in our initial response, let’s get a couple of things straight and then we’ll move on to the good stuff:
1) You’re not the first company on earth to sell eyeglasses (offline or online). You were not the first company to offer an at home try-on service (see: www.glassesdirect.co.uk). You were not the first with a one-for-one model (did you send a similar letter to TOMS when they launched sunglasses?)
2) Some of the content/copy having to do with “optics” on our website does not belong to you, nor does it belong to anyone else. “Polycarbonate lenses are scratch proof and shatter resistant” is a factual statement and one that you can’t co-opt for yourselves. The way that an eyeglass prescription looks or the definitions of abbreviations on a prescription is not something you own.
Something else that’s really troubling: in at least one instance you have told a reporter that we do not donate to charity. This is not true. We’ve bootstrapped this business with no salaries and have already donated a lot to charity.
Maybe you just misspoke and were referring to the very early days of our website when it said we were donating to Global Vision 2020. As a true detective (with lots of time, apparently) you placed a call to your friends over there and they said something to the effect of, “we don’t know who Classic Specs is.” You then called us and said something very close to “we’re well aware of what you are doing and how dare you try to pull this in our hometown. If you don’t shut the website down and hand over all your inventory, we will work really hard to make sure your careers in the creative fields are ruined.” Wow. Straight up gangster. The truth is, as first time entrepreneurs, it didn’t come to our attention that we needed to get permission from a charity before donating to them. My bad. We immediately got our ducks in a row to make donations and found a new charity which we have been working with ever since: New Eyes for the Needy.
We’re really proud of what we’re doing to help others and there are plenty of people who would gratefully accept contributions from the both of us. Below is a recent monthly acknowledgement letter from New Eyes for The Needy.
Now for some things that others might not know:
1) Warby Parker was sued by another optical company that sells eyewear online for Trade Dress Infringement, Copyright Infringement, Vicarious Copyright Infringement, Contributory Copyright Infringement, Unfair Competition, and Common Law Unfair Misappropriation (wow that sounds mighty familiar…)
2) It looks like Warby Parker admitted to wrongdoing and settled to at least one of the aforementioned charges…am I right?
I for one have never seen these details in any of the many articles about Warby Parker, and it certainly seems to be left out of the “wink wink nudge nudge” that inspired this letter in the first place. I hope this will bring an end to all that or, at the very least, raise everyone’s collective eyebrows (we like to prevent squinting).
Maybe I’m completely wrong with some of my assumptions above. If so, please give me a call: 718.360.5585 or email me (andrew at classicspecs.com). I would welcome talking this through so we can get back to the important stuff - making excellent eyewear and helping the world see more clearly.
Andrew Lipovsky, co-founder, Classic Specs
ps. One thing I do want to apologize for: Neil, when your wife ordered some home tryons from us in March of last year and I sent an empty box with a note that said “say hi to Neil/Dave, xoxo” I was just trying to keep this business a friendly competition. Apologies if you’re still holding that grudge - in retrospect I should have included the glasses, they’re fresh.