There's a lot of stuff being thrown about in this thread, let me see if I can take a stab at clarifying a few things...
Intellectual property issues with importing cloth diapers:
- Copyright - Copyright would generally only apply to specific prints of diapers. If a cloth diaper company designs a unique print in house, they automatically have the copyright to it, it's not even something you are required to register for. This is why Cotton Babies, Grovia, Kanga Care and more have exclusive prints that you don't see elsewhere. Alva has stolen some of these prints and made diapers with them. Copyright does not apply to the design of a diaper, snap placement, etc.
- Trademark - This is something you register for. If a Chinese company were to make fake Lil Joeys and put Lil Joey tags on them, I assume that KC has that name trademarked. I don't see many international diapers that are trying to copy a brand name. However, trademark issues also apply to cartoon character diapers. Generally, most cartoon diapers from China that represent popular characters (Disney, Hello Kitty, etc) are not using licensed prints and are violating trademark laws. Generally Disney and the like have bigger fish to fry than hunting down cloth diapers with their characters, but it is something that could cause them to be seized at customs, since it is pretty easy for a customs agent to identify popular cartoons.
- Patent - This is the issue with the double gussets and Kanga Care. You have to register for a patent and they take years to be granted. They are fairly specific. It's a little unclear IMO whether KC's patent covers DG's in an AIO like the Lil Joey.
So as this relates to THX diapers... they are not pretending to BE Lil Joeys. They are not violating any copyrights or trademarks. The double gusset may violate KC's patent, but those kind are no longer being made. Does it suck to have your design copied? Sure, happens all the time to WAHMs.
Other cloth diaper importation issues:
- CPSIA compliance - Pretty much any cloth diaper imported from China through a co-op is NOT CPSIA compliant. FWIW, most WAHM diapers with PUL are not either. Most rebranded Alvas are not CPSIA compliant. There's no evidence that any of these diapers are unsafe, but they are not meeting the letter of the law proving they are safe, even if you get a certificate about lead. CPSIA is super complicated and a PIA to meet. It's a legitimate major expense for the major companies.
- How workers are treated - Not trying to stir the pot on this one, but all evidence points to THX diapers being made in the same factory as Kanga Care (and I was very skeptical about this, but it keeps piling up). I cannot speak for other companies, nor do I have any idea how things work at that factory. I do not believe anyone has ever proven that the conditions for workers who make the China cheapies are any worse than the Chinese workers making legit US diapers.
- Quality - What recourse do you have if your diaper has problems? Alva is known for generally being good about replacing problem diapers. Not sure about the other companies. Most are generally pretty good, though Babyland has a reputation for delaminating PUL. When in doubt, read reviews from others. US-based companies generally offer more recourse, and can handle problems/provide replacements faster.
Other co-op issues:
- I have spent a looong time studying the PayPal policies. PayPal does not care about co-ops. It does violate their rules to receive payments as gifts when it is actually for a good or service. It violates their rules to charge people for PP fees and call it that (but you can charge a handling fee). There are issues with the delayed shipping that most co-ops have due to the nature of their order. Some hosts use PayPal, some use WePay, they each have their pros and cons for both sellers and buyers.
- Co-ops are a business, whether you are registered as one or not. ALL US co-op hosts are required by law to report their gross revenue to the IRS. You can also report your expenses and have it not be a big deal, but not reporting it at all can get you in trouble.
- Duty - I would guess that every shipment of diapers _should_ be charged duty. Some of the China cheapie diaper companies get creative with the labeling of their customs forms in order to avoid duty. Being charged duty points to something being more legit, not less.
- Sketchy hosts - There are a LOT of co-ops here, on Facebook, and probably other places too. Spend time lurking before ordering.
- Items being seized at customs - With diapers, most likely to happen if the diapers feature licensed cartoons, but if someone knows the tracking number, they could try to contact customs and cause problems.
So to sum it up, most co-op diapers that are imported from China are illegal in some way. Anyone considering buying them should seriously weigh all of the issues involved.
Thank you for being so forthright! I know you choose to participate, so it's refreshing to see that you acknowledge that they're illegal.