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Keeping fashion front of house


"IP should be seen as an investment, not a waste of money,” argued Hermes’ Intellectual Property Director at the 'IP and Fashion: protect your style' session at the 2016 World AIPPI Congress in Milan. Unsurprisingly, the issue of copying fashion and clothing designs was high on the company’s list of bugbears.

The copying of fashion and clothing designs is so endemic it appears almost accepted by the general public. But, a designer’s creative output is their intellectual property and should be protected as such. We set out tools for protection below.

Counterfeit chic?
Many cite the fast-moving nature of the fashion retail sector as a reason for not dedicating resources or attention to the protection of fashion, clothing and accessory designs. In a fast-paced consumer sector such as fashion, popular styles sell out almost as quickly as they hit the shop floor and retailers need to ensure a rapid turnover of new, and often low-priced, stock if they are to keep their shoppers’ attention.

In this environment, the time taken to bring legal infringement actions can appear overly long and the cost too prohibitive; particularly as, in many cases, the design in question will no longer be in production by the time the action is ready to be pursued.

This has added to the sense of lethargy that has existed traditionally around stomping down on piracy in the sector. However, this is beginning to change. The growing availability of counterfeit goods, the advances in digital technology that have improved the ease and speed in which goods can be copied and produced, and the relocation of manufacturing sites to the Far East have all begun to focus fashion brands’ awareness on the importance of IP.

Creating a protection strategy
The majority of infringement actions brought at present are done so on the basis of a designer’s copyright or unregistered design rights. But, while these rights are valuable, they are not always the most effective routes for action; particularly as they can be difficult to prove and, therefore, enforce. In comparison, a registered design right is a more certain and arguable right, giving its owner a clear legal redress in the case of infringement. Given that the cost of a design registration is relatively low, it’s worth protecting key innovations regularly, even if they have a limited lifespan.

It’s important to remember too that not all fashion designs will have such a short existence. After all, the little black dress, the mini skirt, the ‘skort’ (skirt-short) were all novel creations when they first hit the catwalk.

Similarly, many of the best-known fashion brands have built their reputations on iconic styles and motifs that have retained consumer interest as the brand has grown and evolved: Louboutin’s red sole, the Burberry check, Levi 501s, Ray-Ban’s Aviator sunglasses, Doc Martin boots, Havaianas and, more recently, the distinctive slouch of the Ugg boot.

Any new styles, like these, that are created as part of a company identity will obviously have a longer lifespan and should be protected and enforced proactively; although, it can often be difficult within the sector to identify a style that will endure beyond the current trends.

At Novagraaf, we work with our clients in the fashion sector to help them to decide when and what to protect, and to understand the benefits of doing so. In the current economic environment, protection from unauthorised copying is becoming incredibly important in all sectors. Launching a new fashion design takes time, resources and creativity, so why would you let another company have a free ride on all that hard work?

IP laws and practices exist to help companies protect their innovation and creativity. By working with a specialist IP consultancy like Novagraaf, fashion designers and brands can create a protection strategy that works for their industries and budgets.

Fashion IP checklist
The fashion industry is a fast moving industry with frequent changes and considerable opportunities for IP theft. Let us help you to stop others from bene­fiting from your creativity and reputation by:

  • Protecting your name and product names by registering them as trademarks;
  • Protecting the shape and pattern of your products with registered designs;
  • Ensuring that any designs that you commission are your property by organising assignments of any copyright and design rights to you;
  • Advising on licensing appropriate third parties to use your IP and thus keep the benefit of that use for your company;
  • Monitoring counterfeit goods and taking appropriate action when counterfeits are found; and
  • Conducting searches to ensure that your new product lines do not infringe third-party rights.

Get in touch for further information and support.