Costs of intellectual property protection

Last Wednesday’s edition of Women’s Wear Daily published an article entitled Fighting Knockoffs by Protecting a Brand (sub required) which detailed the specific costs a designer could face for the protection of their design and intellectual property. For the purposes of illustration, WWD created a prototypical handbag for which they’d calculated the costs to protect intellectual property (below).


Photo courtesy Women’s Wear Daily
No surprisingly, WWD found the costs of idea and brand protection could cost as much as $20,000.

Conservative estimates of the total cost to protect every element that might potentially qualify (such as the WWD trademark, W trademark, fabric copyright, design patent on bag shape, utility patent on clasp, etc.) put the grand total at $10,200. But if
problems arise, or the process is complicated by a legal hurdle, that figure could rise as high as $19,500. Regarding worldwide trademark registration, the price tag could reach $3 million. Surprisingly, WWD found that several of the design elements would be difficult to protect under current laws….there are two factors in determining the cost of protecting an item. There’s the cost of registrations with government organizations, as well as the legal fees associated with getting help to file those registrations.

Similarly, IP authorities interviewed in the article made it clear that many elements of the product can’t be protected; they’re simply not unique enough. Also, it is not unusual that start ups can be guilty of copying product elements that are property of another company -albeit unintentionally. The last thing to note is that many products are not sufficiently distinctive to warrant years of costs in the investment of technical expertise. Then there’s always the issue of creative synchronicity; unbeknownst to you, someone else could have come up with exactly -or nearly exactly- the same idea except they’d be moving their idea into production while you’re still wading through legal applications. I definitely do not want to fuel the paranoia flames of newbie designers but if you’re concerned about intellectual property, visiting the Counterfeit Chic blog is a logical first step.

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8 comments

  1. Jess says:

    Couldn’t they have fit atleast one more logo on there? Then, of course after the bag was released they’d have legal fees fighting to protect it but really if you think about it, if your a famous name how many bags would they need to sell to make their money back? About 5 to 10!

  2. christy fisher says:

    I read the article in WWD.. they designed that particular bag just for the article and they broke down the different components of each logo section into costs, etc…so there is a reason you have all the logos on that particular bag.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for the compliment Josh!
    A word about Alexa…it’s bogus! In order to get real tracking on your stats, you have to load their script on all your pages -and I haven’t and I won’t either. I’ve done searches on affected keywords and they rank totally bogus sites (link farms etc) higher than mine. The number of links they list for me is what, zero? And I know that’s not right, lol. Google, Yahoo, MSN and technorati list me a lot higher in the rankings. Alexa’s been oversold and I’m not the only one who’s been saying that. A lot of webmasters won’t load their script either. It’s invasive.

  4. christy fisher says:

    Here is a more detailed explanation of why the WWD bag has so many logo examples and how they used the bag to explain (especially to young designers) how expensive intellectually copyright and trademark protection can be and the difference between each:

    WWD Logo (the big gold charm thing) Trademark: cost:$1000-$2000 per trademark

    WWD Fabric: Copyright: $200-$800 each

    Overall look of bag and shape: Design Patent: $2000-$8000

    Clasp of bag: Utility Patent: $6000- $10000

    Basic filing fees:
    Trademark: $375 Searches: $150-$500

    Copyright: $30

    Design Patent: filing $200 search $100 exam $130

    Utility patent: filing $300 search $500 exam $200

    Now these costs are just for ONE BAG..so if you have 4 or 6 bags in a line that you want to protect then you are putting out major beaucoup bucks for that experience.

  5. christy fisher says:

    There is no such thing as “basic copyright”.
    One copyright or patent does not cover everything.
    This is what the article is all about. The fabric copyright is for the fabric only. That fabric could be used to make a dress, upholster a car, etc. etc. and it would use the same copyright…but the Logo itself(WWD)is a trademark
    Why does it cost more? For that you will have to ask a lawyer. I am only repeating what WWD had in their article.
    Kathleen will go into more detail on this soon.

  6. Josh says:

    I’ve heard this said about alexa.com but I still like it. And yes the information often takes a while to update and it’s not always accurate but it’s good to use as a half-guessing guide. I really don’t like google rankings because it’s not very user friendly and it ranks you in keywords. So say bvfonts.com for instance is in position 33 for “fonts”, but that doesn’t really tell me about the entire web. I get satisfaction looking at the numbers go up and down at alexa, even if they are off. Alexa is like the stock market of the web.

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