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.