What is Fashion Law? An Overview of Legal Issues in the Fashion Industry
“Fashion is an art or an individual statement of expression for a different generation.” French Fashion designer Coco Chanel
Ensuring Safe and Ethical Fashion Practices
A fast-emerging legal speciality, Fashion Law also known as Apparel Law, is a rapidly growing area of jurisprudence which is directly related to the requirements of the burgeoning fashion industry. Fashion at the very outset is an outpouring of an individual’s or a brand’s creativity, ideas, concepts that they require immediate protection at the time its first presented or made public. Copyright, trademark or intellectual property protection is sought to prevent rampant and fraudulent violations and infringements related to copyright. Caused by copy-cat versions emerging in public of an original design, concept or rendition, and further exacerbated by the internet explosion, there is a dire need for stringent protective laws that are fashion-industry specific.
For example, design piracy and copycat litigation have grown in recent years, prompting new legislation that provides legal protection for fashion designs, and are of particular importance to key stakeholders in the industry.
Negotiating and Drafting Agreements in the Fashion Industry
What this discipline entails are legal issues encompassing the life of a garment from concept stage to a finished brand and its protection, thereof. Stakeholders seeking such legal protection and services include designers, fashion houses, distributors, manufacturers, modelling agencies, retailers, and photo/videographers.
Responsibilities and duties of a fashion lawyer include advising their clients on legal remedies available when dealing with fashion designs and brands, textile, apparel, luxury, footwear, jewellery, and the cosmetics industries. Wide-ranging services are expected of fashion lawyers in the areas of licensing, merchandising, distribution, franchise agreements, intellectual property, employment, and labour relations.
Other aspects related to the industry that a fashion lawyer is required to assist, include safety and sustainability issues, as also consumer protection matters. Again, aspects of corporate, real estate, tax, and business laws need to be handled by a fashion lawyer for anyone setting up a fashion business.
A fashion lawyer is called upon by a design house or a designer to assist with drafting and negotiating contracts, attending to litigating trademark issues, copyright, and intellectual property matters. Advising clients on brand development, and its protection, and business formation are broadly a fashion lawyer can assist a client with.
Intellectual Property Law: Protecting Fashion Designs and Trademarks
In India, The Fashion Foundation of India is a newly constituted body consisting of the leading fashion designers seeking legal remedies as applicable. Laws regarding ‘intellectual property’ in India provides protection under the Design Act 2000, the Copyright Act of 1957 and the Geographical Indications of Goods (GI) (Registration and Prohibition Act) 1999. The distinction is that the artistic works in the sketches of the designs are protected under the Copyright Act of 1957. The Design Act 2000, protects the non-functional aspect of an object having a visual appearance such as shape configuration, pattern, the composition of line and colour pattern. The Design Rules 2001 provides a long list of products and articles with which an application can be made to the controller. Such Design Rights remain in force for ten years and extendable to a total period of 15 years.
New York Senator Charles Schumer introduced the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Protection Act (IDPPPA) in August 2010. The IDPPPA protects designs that are deemed to be “unique” and “original.”
The booming fashion industry is a global phenomenon churning out billions of dollars in turnover. This means that more and more individuals and firms wanting a share of this gigantic pie, are in jumping into the fray. Now, here lies the problem of too many shareholders. Not everyone has talent and creativity to hold his or her own. So, the easiest way to earn ramp up sales and revenue for most, is to flood the market with copies of original fashion, designs and trends. Adding to the complexity is the digital presence and online display of fashion clothing. It has become all too easy for anyone to check out whatever is trending or in vogue by way of fashion clothing and go ahead and purchase what they like on a website. This brings consumers and fans to fashion-related websites or retail outlets stocking copies of those very fashion designs, at a fraction of the cost of the originals. Hence, this world gets larger by the day and so does the pressure on original brands and their owners who need to seek copyright protection and the like. Otherwise, it means loss of revenue and a negative impact on the overall business.
Setting stringent norms, rules and laws are necessary to ensure a healthy growth for the fashion industry. As a result of this, fashion laws have been introduced as a new legal practice that involves areas of Intellectual Property Rights, Trademark and Copyright Laws. Patent and Trade secrets become effective when a business entity develops a new manufacturing process in consumer’s clothing, footwear, and fashion accessories.
Social thinkers have considered ‘Fashion’ as the window of social change, of modernity and social ideals. Everything in society reflects fashion in some manner. Legally speaking the term ‘fashion’ has been tagged under ‘intellectual property.’
Fashion Law was first taught in 2008, by Professor Susan Scafidi in the United States, and has hence developed into a distinct field of law.
Fashion Law in India: A comparison.
FASHION LAWS WITH COMPARISON
Author: Mr. Pranav Kushal, Bahra University.