London Fashion Week AW19: IP Protection in the Fashion Industry

Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” – Coco Chanel

As London Fashion Week (LFW) AW19 draws to a close, the focus shifts to intellectual property (IP) protection in respect of the fashion industry. LFW is known for showcasing both emerging and established designers’ work over a period of five days.

The fashion industry is continually developing new designs, ideas and concepts, which places a great importance on legal protection. The majority of fashion brands ensure trade mark protection, while other types of brand protection are usually ignored. The purpose of IP protection is to safeguard concepts and deter rivals from imitating those concepts.  Although certain fashion trends are fleeting, others remain an everlasting staple in society, as seen with the timeless Chanel flap bag and the Hermès Kelly bag.

In addition to trade mark protection, there are a number of additional types of protection that every fashion brand should consider, including:

  1. Copyright

Copyright protection may automatically arise when for artistic work when an original idea becomes physical or is recorded in writing. The protection prevents others from copying or making adaptations of the work. Artistic work usually has copyright protection for 70 years after the death of the creator. Owners of copyright can benefit from its sale or licensing its use.

  1. UK unregistered design rights

Unregistered design rights exist to provide temporary protection to shapes or the formation of items, providing there is originality, for a period of 10 to 15 years.

  1. Community design rights

Community design rights protect appearances. The requirement is that the designs must be “considered to be new and to have individual character”. In order for a design to be considered new, it must be shown that “no identical design has been made available to the public”.

There are two categories of community design rights in accordance with European law: 1) unregistered design rights; and 2) registered design rights.

Unregistered design rights provide brand protection for a duration of three years, whereas registered design rights can offer rights holders with protection for a maximum of 25 years.

  1. Patents

The purpose of protection in the form of a patent is to safeguard innovations for a maximum of 20 years, provided it: is new; constitutes an inventive step; is capable of industrial application; and does not fall foul of certain exclusions. Patents are not automatically registrable and instead must be registered with the relevant Intellectual Property Office. It is important to note that any disclosure of inventions prior to patent registration may inadvertently invalidate the patent in its entirety.

World-renowned fashion designer Burberry currently has numerous registered design rights, including protection for distinct Burberry patterned slippers.

If you require IP advice in relation to your fashion brand, contact the IP Team at Mackrell Turner Garrett.