Fordham Law

Why the New Intellectual Property Bill Might Tranform the Fashion Industry

Susan Scafidi in Fashionista, August 10, 2010

Media Source

ABS won't be able to knock off dresses like this anymore.

Last week, we passed along the news that New York Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced a bill to the US Senate called the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act. It provides “very limited intellectual property protection to the most original design.”

The bill was introduced to the House of Representatives in April 2009. It was then amended with input from different groups within the fashion industry, and is now being presented to the Senate. If it passes in the Senate and the House, it will become a law. (As long as the President signs off on it, that is.)

We know that the law will help to protect original designs from piracy, but how? Susan Scafidi, an intellectual property attorney and author of the popular fashion law blog Counterfeit Chic, broke it down for us. PS: If you’re interested in fashion and intellectual property law, you should be following Scafidi. She teaches a fashion law course at Fordham Law School and has been instrumental in launching Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute, where she serves as Director.

But back to the bill. Here’s what it aims to do:
• Protect a new design for three years after it’s been put into production. While counterfeiting designer handbags and well-known monograms is criminal, younger designer whose pieces may be original–but not recognizable on a mass market–have had difficulty fighting fast fashion retailers that knock off a new silhouette or pattern. The law will protect very specific designs for three years, which means Allen Schwartz won’t be able to knock off Chelsea Clinton’s Vera Wang dress, or the next Marchesa red carpet favorite, for 36 months after it has debuted. “This bill finally allows designers to have their work recognized as an art, and receive the kind of protection that this article, paintings, and movies get,” says Scafidi.
• Spur creativity in mass retail. For years it’s been “accepted” that mass retailers would blatantly copy high-end designer items. Because they (presumably) won’t be able to do that anymore, retailers will probably begin allowing their talented designers to create more unique products. And that’s good for the consumer–it means more choice.
• Stop designers–peers–from knocking each other off. We tend to pick on the fast fashion retailers when it comes to copying, but contemporary and high-end labels do it, too.
This is the third time that the bill has been presented to congress since 2006–and lawmakers have attempted to get similar bills passed for the last 100 years to no avail. But it’s looking good this time. Hopefully, it’ll mean that in the future, we’ll have fewer opportunities to post under the title Adventures in Copyright.