The fashion industry has different intellectual property laws than other industries such as music, television and film. The important distinction is that utilitarian design of the clothes can be claimed in a copyright but many aspects such as the shape and cut cannot be copyrighted. Trademarks are also protected against being copied in all industries.
What You Can Do in Fashion
According to Johanna Blakley, with Ready to Share organization believes the fashion industry can serve as a standard to other industries such as film, music and paintings. Blakely gives a TED Talk about lessons from fashion’s free culture. It’s legal to copy each other in the United States. This provides lots of options for fashion designers to create trends faster to be ready for every season. It encourages innovative fashion creations that are difficult to copy. Only utilitarian clothing designs are protected. Digital technology has blurred the line of the current intellectual property protection laws. Jorge Quiñones, CEO of JQ Model & Talent Agency says, “I do see and agree with Ms. Blakley, how the fashion industry could possibly serve as an industry standard for intellectual property, and I believe that the film, television and music industry might want to look into this as it does concern their interest.”
The copyright.gov states, “…copyright protection for the designs of useful articles is extremely limited. The design of a useful article is protected under copyright only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.” Under copyright law, with fashion designs the laws state that fashion designs will have to be publically shown before registration can be filed. The designer has two years to register it.
What You Can’t Do in Fashion
According to uspto.gov, trademark is defined as “…a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” For example, Kim Kardashian made a trademark violation when she stole an original logo by Korcula. There were slight changes but not enough to consider Kardashian’s logo original. Not long after the necklace was sent to Kardashian, she launched a perfume line using the Korcula logo. Her defense was that it was a different industry, which does not matter for trademark protection, only for a name of a company as long as it doesn’t confuse the consumer. Quiñones states, “I would have to say though with a brand like the Kardasians, this slight confusion might be an opportunity to Korcula’s brand with more web searches to Korcula’s site. I know if someone had a similar logo like mine if their brand was in no way harmful to mine I might not be as upset if it was a brand that might bring me more harm. I would simply add though I believe in originality.”