Protecting Fashion Ideas Law

Apparel emailed subscribers yesterday with a link to a guest editorial from Ilse Metchek of the CFA. The editorial is a reprinted letter that was sent to Howard Berman, the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee for the Internet and Intellectual Property Committee which is currently considering the so described “fashion intellectual property” bill (H.R. 2033). The letter says in part:

The proposed framework defining “fashion piracy” has enormous legal ramifications, does not protect creativity, and is a lawyer’s windfall…would have a potentially devastating impact upon the apparel industry…Fashion is an industry that thrives on trends, and trends, by their nature, involve the sharing and tweaking of new ideas. In fashion there is truly nothing new under the sun, and designers are constantly looking to the past and the present for inspiration in their work.

We foresee extensive litigation and a bonanza for lawyers, but little benefit for designers and apparel makers. This proposed legislation will force the manufacturers to re-examine their relationships with their suppliers and their retailers…Certainly, new loans to the manufacturers, based on significant exposure to the folly of a variety of lawsuits will be problematic, making many contemporary designers uninsurable!..Lending institutions cannot factor merchandise that might be a part of forthcoming lawsuits, just by virtue of recently acquired copyright. So much of fashion is based on historical research. What is “research” to one designer becomes “original artwork” to the plaintiff. Ridiculous!

For another perspective in the debate, see Susan Scafidi’s entry at Counterfeit Chic. Ms. Scafidi is an attorney and law professor specializing in intellectual property law. Her entry includes a pdf of the bill in its entirety. Previously on F-I are two mentions of the fashion piracy paradox (part one, two) in the context of a recent study which analyzed the potential effects of protecting fashion intellectual property. The summary may surprise you, hence “paradox” in the titles. I imagine most of you already have an opinion regardless of the study’s conclusions that (unfortunately) few will read. So, what’s your opinion? Take the poll.

Edit 11/23/12
Vizu polls have closed down. Below is a screen capture of the poll results.

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  1. Karen C says:

    I agree that we do not need new laws to protect our designs. If we design something truly unique, there are laws on the books that can be utilized to litigate the matter (such as your previous post about the sweater design). And I also agree that this law will only help those attorneys who already are bringing home $20-50K a month (did you know that’s how much attorneys make? the ones I work with do).

  2. Phyllis says:

    I just can’t imgagine what is to be gained with this legislation, and there is no way in hell I can see retailers supporting it.

  3. Kathleen says:

    What’s really ironic -speaking of copyright protection- is that I’ve spent all week fighting with to suspend service to a site they host that is publishing all of my material. And Google adsense. There are sites out there, called “Splogs” that scrape content from websites, publishing it on their own. They do it to make money on google adsense. GoDaddy took the site down for awhile but it’s back up again! This has been very nerve wracking and it’s hard to solve this problem while still carrying my usual workload. GoDaddy definitely gets my vote for unethical behavior. Anything for a buck. They have been very unresponsive.

  4. jenny says:

    Does this herald an era of de-democratisaion of clothing? A return to limiting style, fabric or colour to one class, while the plebs must dress as reconisable plebs, policed by lawyers seeking damages for couture designers . Ironic that this appears as an era of street led fashion (punk goth grunge military etc) fades and a return of glamour is heralded. OK so maybe I’ve overdosed on conspiracy theories, its just lawyers with a keen eye on profits to pick from manufacturers and distributors.

  5. Kaaren Hoback says:

    Can you imagine the pages and pages of descriptive detail it would take to describe a white bridal gown with pearl and lace trimmings for copyright? The design process would need to include a very detailed description.

    Whose color chart is acceptable to define color or will there be a limit to a Pantone number or will color be defined by RGB values or something else? Will we have to define the fabric and source beyond content and care instructions? Will changing the lace motif or it’s position, or the size of the pearls or the flare of the skirt from 5 to 6 degrees invalidate the copyright? If so who does this protect?

    When retailers use descriptive terms incorrectly describing apparel in their adverts how can we expect Jane Q to understand the difference between a cowl neckline and a scoop? Will a lawyer really know the difference between a godet and a gore?

    This bill is a ludicrous waste of time and energy as written.

  6. Augusta says:

    Artists are protected by rights and lawyers do not understand the terminology used in fine art. A graphic designer is protected when the law doesn’t understand the difference between Cold and Hot pressed paper….

    So there’s no argument there in my opinon.

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