As most of us have basic pieces of clothes or accesories in the closet, like a “black little dress”, a necklace, or a pair  of sneakers, emerging designers should have basic knowledge of Intellectual Property, in order to protect their works and not infringe others’.

Everybody praises famous trademarks and how valuable they are, but when it comes to protect their own work, many designers overlook a number of legal matters that are the foundation to become a solid and profitable business.

For instance, the identity of a clothing line or accesories such as shoes, belts or jewerly, must be cleared and protected from the very beginning.

However, many desginers believe they should protect their Brand only when they become famous or they obtain a trademark registration and use a logo which differs from the one they protected initially.

Below are listed the main legal tools to protect and monetize designers’ works:

  • Trademarks: e.g. Calvin Klein, Adolfo Domínguez, Bimba y Lola, Pineda Covalin, Chanel, etc.
  • Industrial Design: e.g.: new textiles made from different materials, furniture from IKEA or Pottery Barn; jewerly from Tiffany, or shoes from Sketchers.
  • License: a permission that somebody grants to a third party to use protected work. If someone intends to use your work and you agree, you should grant a license in order to receive an economic benefit from that exploitation.
  • Patents: inventions of industrial application, like an automobile,  a bycicle or also a weareble techonology.
  • Designations of origin: products made in a geographic area that have special characteristics linked to that specific place of production.
  • Literary works: script for a Fashion Drama, Novels, such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Kill Bill; Musical Plays, such as Chicago or Wicked.
  • Songs: Thriller, Bohemian Rhapsody or Despacito.
  • Artistic works: Paintings from Frida Khalo, Vincent Van Gogh; Cartoons like Snoopy, Wonder Woman; photos…. it is common that an art work is used on clothing or accessories, make sure to get a license before start adding others’ image or works on your fashion products.
  • Scientific works: e.g. an essay about psychology or sexuology…
  • Related rights, such as the one belonging to someone performing in a particular way a famous song, in a cat walk. You need to make sure to pay royalties for the songs you use in every public event you organize to promote your company. Failing to do that can result in Copyright Infringement, that is a lawsuit against you or your company.

The previous bullet points mention the main areas of intellectual property related to Fashion Law.

Protecting your identity and your works should be a priority, such as respecting other’s protected works, as much as meeting deadlines with manufacturers, reach financial goals, or create an effective digital marketing strategy. Legal specialists are already discussing the importance of a proper IP compliance program in any company or business project.

Why? It is very simple. If you don´t do it, the following is likely to happen:

  • Your business and brand won´t be disctintive from others’
  • Anybody can copy, reproduce and profit from your creations without any obligation to pay an amount of money to you: the owner.
  • You won´t be competitive in the market
  • You will lose all money and time you have invested in your project, and
  • you may infringe other’s IP rights
  • Chances are… you will go out of the market, sooner than later.

The Fashion Industry is one of the toughest industries, and there are no second chances.

Having said that, if you are ready to start your own line, we recommend to search different ways to ascertain your work is really original and then protect it in your country and other countries where you want to sell your products.

We know most emerging designers cannot afford having an in-house attorney, if this is your case, contact an Intellectual Property attorney or fashion IP lawyer for advice and to develop a correct legal strategy.

Taking action at the right time will increase your chances to succeed.

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