Since our Adventures in Copyright feature began five years ago, we’d venture to guess knock offs of designer goods have become even more common. And just like there isn’t yet legislation preventing 14-year-olds from walking in runway shows, there isn’t really legislation keeping designers from copying each other, but that doesn’t mean the CFDA won’t do their best to see that it doesn’t happen.
Back in 2010, we learned about a proposed new bill that would offer more protection to designers. Called the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act, it was supported by the CFDA, but not always by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), who represent manufacturers (who may be manufacturing some of those knock-offs). However, according to WWD, the two groups have been collaborating over the past five years on finding ways to prevent design piracy even though a bill has not yet passed.
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It’s clear from our Adventures in Copyright series (especially the Marc by Marc near exact replica we posted yesterday) that designers have little protection when it comes to their designs. For American designers to protect their patterns, they must attain “trade dress” protection, which means consumers recognize a knockoff as coming from a particular designer like say, a wrap dress from DVF. This is pretty hard to prove and designers rarely win these cases.
It’s a frustrating position for American designers to have little recourse when their designs are copied down to the most subtle details but a new bill gives designers some hope. Late last night, the New York Times broke the news that New York Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced a bill called the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act which would provide “very limited intellectual property protection to the most original design.” So if Marc Jacobs wanted to sue whomever knocked off his bag, he’d have to prove that that his design is a “unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs,” and that the knock off is “substantially identical” to the original.
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