Legislating fashion protection

From Slate (via Marginal Revolution) comes word that the obsession with protecting fashion ideas has become more absurd. Everybody copies everybody eventually. What is the proposed life span of a protected design anyway? Interest in the unique elements of the design will fade long before the protection of it will. At this rate, if you can’t afford (or like) “original” fashion, you’ll be stuck with jeans and tee shirts forever.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is meeting with members of Congress tomorrow to gather support for a bill to offer copyrightlike protection to clothing designs. While European Union law already contains similar provisions, the CFDA proposal would be a substantial change to the existing American framework. The proposed bill would, for the first time, prevent anyone from copying an original clothing design in the United States and give designers the exclusive right to make, import, distribute, and sell clothes based on their designs.

I’d like to see how they plan on enforcing it.

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  1. Mike C says:

    I’d like to see how they plan on enforcing it.

    Where there’s a law, there’s a dozen lawyers.

    This law would help no one, not even the idiots pushing for it (unless they are lawyers.)

  2. christy fisher says:

    Good luck to them.
    I have no idea how they will enforce this..it’s been going on forever.

    I am curious, however, as to how companies like ABS get away with what they do. They even advertise that they knock off famous designers. They will have a knockoff of a red carpet dress in their showroom the day after the Oscars, etc. and be showing it on Entertainment tonight and telling everyone how it is a line by line copy of a $5000 Galliano and they offer the copy for $300, etc. I know they are using a cheaper fabric, cheaper processes, etc..but it seems that some there has to be some kind of protection from companies such as this..

  3. Gigi says:

    As I see it, companies who make knock-offs are hardly taking business away from the big-name designers. People who cannot afford the multi-thousand dollar original will buy the knock-off, those who can afford the original wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but.

  4. Bill Waddell says:

    Many people do not realize that a copyright, unlike a patent, does not require approval from the government. The copyright exists the moment the written, artistic or musical creation came to life. Kathleen’s book, for example, fell under copyright protection as soon as she wrote it, whether she ever sent it into the copyright office or not. A government copyright is only useful becasue it makes defending a copyright in court easier.

    Hence, if this bill passes, look for the emergence of people who do nothing but dream up fashion designs by the hundreds and thousands and throw them out onto a web site with no intention of ever making or even selling any of them. All they will be doing is trying to establish a copyright for every conceivable fashion idea under the sun so they can initiate copyright violation claims against the leigitimate folks who are designing and making real products. They will try to make it so that whatever you dream up, they will already have something remotely similar that will enable them – and their lawyers – to get their hands in your pockets.

    Kathlen, I respect your politics, but this is why the Republicans have been hammering on tort reform and the trial lawyers, and why John Edwards was such an abomination to most business people. He has made an outrageous fortune from schemes like this, as have many, many other trial lawyers.

    Mike – you’re too naive! A dozen lawyers? They will flock to the fashion industry by the thousands if this law comes to pass.

  5. karen v. says:

    No one can say “Jeans” and “Tee Shirts” anymore, they are copyright protected! Just like “Bologna” and “Parmesan Cheese”. (Will these people) Get A Life!
    Ironic aside: when I worked as a commercial textile colorist, I remember one day, while L. was in court “defending” our pattern against copyright infringers (we won), the stylist told P. to walk down to Macys to buy a specific garment to knock off the pattern! The salespeople at Macy’s weren’t stupid, either, they really toughened up their return policy, thanks to us.

  6. Jess says:

    The idea of that law passing sends a chill up my spine. It could only benefit lawyers. It will make it easier for the big guys to bully the little guys because they can afford lawyers. How close is too close to a design? Who can say who came up with what first when most everything comes from something from the past? It sounds like a nightmare scenario.

    Typefaces have no real copyright protection and as a font designer I think it’s great and most designers will tell you they prefer it that way.

  7. Alison Cummins says:

    Question: the article says that this legislation is “similar” to what exists in France right now. What’s going on there? A legal feeding frenzy?

  8. Sherry says:

    Will the copyright infringement count if a manufacturer copies the style, but not the fabric content, or changes one design feature (a pocket over the left breast instead of the right)?

    I can’t imagine why retailers and manufacturers would support this. (Without retailers and manufacturers, who would buy commercial designers’ work?)

    What happens to the home sewer with superb skills who walks down the street in a design she copied? Will she be arrested or fined? Will fashion styles become black market goods.

    It does not bode well that members of the CFDA are even thinking about passing legislation like this. What forces are driving them to such desperation?

  9. karen v. says:

    Sherry, If a home sewer is able to copy a design for his/her personal use, nobody is going to come after them. It wouldn’t be worth it. It’s the idea of using somebody else’s EXACT design for profit that pisses people off.

  10. Marilynn says:

    Why don’t we all send an e-mail to CFDA telling them our thoughts on this? Perhaps they need a little reality from us.

  11. Esther says:

    I think these big designers that want to copyright their designs are missing the point. If they make a dress for a hollywood star, and it turns out to be a big hit, they could reach a whole nother market. They could have sitting in the wings less expensive versions to put on the rack, ready to sell the next day. They could be making a lot MORE money instead of wasting it in litigation.

  12. Eric H says:

    Personally, I’m all for it. I mean, look at the great styles coming out of Europe (where this already exists), like super-tight premium denim, toplessness at public beaches, the heroin-addict look among models, David Hasselhoff, and … um, I’m sure there are other great styles coming out of Europe. Dinner jackets? Okay, that’s been a while. Gold lamme jogging suits as formal wear? Ah! I have it: obscenely expensive leather shoes and purses.

    Okay, I’m sorry – I think we must share the blame for David Hasselhoff.

  13. Mimi says:

    Bill, you might be interested to know that in the NYT article about the Council of Fashion Designers of America, published on March 30, that the proposed legislation is going to be introduced by a Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginian Republican, so your argument about Democrats and trial lawyers might need to be reconsidered.

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