In today’s fast-paced society, the fashion industry is continually evolving. While being a part of almost everyone’s daily life, fashion is something to which each one of us can relate. Be it in the form of shoes, or the apparel which we wear, the fashion industry is indeed the most widely-recognized and profit-making industry in the world and yet is also the most vulnerable. Although getting inspired by something or someone is accepted in the modern world; however, at times, this inspiration comes as more of direct imitation than an innovative extension of the original idea. It is a matter of fact that yes; Intellectual Property (IP) Laws act as watchdogs for the creative ideas; quite often it becomes arduous to keep an eye on every development or creation that takes place across the globe every minute.
Intellectual Property Infringement issues not only result when small-time retail shops breach the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) of big brands; but even the vice-versa for the same holds to quite an extent. Furthermore, the vulnerability of this industry emerges from the lack of Intellectual Property Protection given to the fashion labels and brands as well. As the innovative ideas and creative fields of the fashion industry stand on the pillars of sincere efforts and flawless skills of the creators, they often sue others for the infringement of their designs.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Although Trademark Protection can protect a fashion brand and its entity, it often becomes ineffective against copycat or lookalike products. As the biggest threat to the fashion industry, these copycat products come to the consumer market very quickly after the launch of a new clothing line. Why trademark protection lags in such cases is because the lookalike products don’t use the name of the original brand names. Therefore, the protection of IP in the fashion industry requires an agile approach with a strategy flexible enough to keep in pace with the ever-evolving nature of fashion trends. Besides, the fashion designers and creators must tailor the IP strategy to fit their particular niche within the fashion business.
In the creative fashion industry, Copyright Protection can extend to the designs (including fabric prints, lace patterns, and jacquard weave) and products, which are regularly changing and fast-moving. When a lookalike product copies the entire look of the original brand, without using its name, and it doesn’t seem feasible to seek or claim Industrial Design Protection, copyrights offer an additional avenue of claim, only when the original fashion design is a work of artistic craftsmanship. In many jurisdictions, protection for copyrights may be broader because of the absence of any specific categories of copyrighted works. However, it is still necessary to show that the works are distinctive and original as what constitutes the term ‘original’ varies from one jurisdiction to another.
Nowadays, well-established regimes in various jurisdictions grant exclusive powers to the Customs authorities to seize and destroy trademark infringing and counterfeit products. Generally, Customs authorities are more accustomed to identifying trademark-infringing products than those that may infringe copyrights. Therefore, more intensive customs training and detailed product information can help them to spot similarities among designs.
Industrial design protection usually provides a quicker and cheaper way of obtaining a registered IP and protects the features that are prominent in fashion labels and brands, including decoration and design. As an additional route for enforcement, industrial designs protect the appearance of the entire product or a part of it resulting from the features of colors, shapes, textures, contours, lines, or its ornamentation. Industrial Design Registration across the globe has a global novelty requirement, and it isn’t cost-effective to seek protection for all novel designs just by predicting the likelihood of their success. The motive must be to protect the novel designs and features of the products that will spark new trends before the infringers begin to violate them.
For creating new and innovative designs, the fashion industry invests an enormous amount every season. Due to the growing trends of counterfeit items, fashion designers usually fail to protect their IP. Infringers have become more sophisticated in their action than ever before, and subtle lookalike products are present in almost every consumer market. Entirely removing the issue of counterfeiting and copying of designs seems to be next to impossible. However, the creators and brand owners must stay alert and keep themselves aware of the applicable IP laws to safeguard their unique creations and designs.