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Protecting your fashion: What to know about the law

You create fashion because you love to make new designs and trends. What you don't love is when something you've made suddenly hits the market from unknown brands who stole your trendy ideas.

The problem with fashion is that it's not always easy to protect what you create. While there are options out there for inventions and new recipes, the options available for fashion and clothing are limited. These sometimes-functional items are actually fairly difficult to protect.

Fashion is functional, so clothing cannot be copyright protected. However, there are some items that could be copyrighted, like jewelry, which is a simple decorative piece with no true functionality. Two-dimension designs, such as you fabric prints, lace patterns and weaves are also able to be copyrighted.

Comparatively, patents aren't great for fashion either. Sometimes, things like zippers or high-performance fabrics, could be subject to a patent, but on the whole, designs and clothing are not. Patents only apply when your design and material is something new or novel. Footwear may be patented in some cases, particularly if they're athletic. Patents also protect undergarment designs in many cases.

If you want to protect your designs, the best bet is to aim for a design patent. A design patent covers items that are functional but that have unique ornamental or decorative aspects to them. For example, a jacket with a sculptural design might have a look unique enough for a design patent.

Your attorney can review your information and discuss the options with you. Your property is part of your brand and should be protected.

Source: Fashionista, "Copyright, Trademark Patent: Your Go-To Primer for Fashion Intellectual Property Law," Tyler McCall, accessed Feb. 28, 2018

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