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Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Protect Fashion Designs

Steve Madden, left, Alexander McQueen, right, via <a href="">Fashion Police</a>
Steve Madden, left, Alexander McQueen, right, via Fashion Police

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For any follower of fashion who's ever been dismayed to find a spectacular designer piece knocked off to bits, lawmakers are finally introducing legislation to combat the theft of intellectual property in fashion.

It hasn't been as easy as it may seem—in order to avoid an onslaught of petty cases over "who had the idea first," disputing trivial details, and clogging up the court system, lawmakers had to be careful in structuring the parameters of what counts as copycatting.

The NY Times reports:

The proposed legislation provides very limited intellectual property protection to the most original design. A designer who claims that his work has been copied must show that his design provides “a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs.” And it must be proven by the designer that the copy is “substantially identical” to the original so as to be mistaken for it. The bill would cover all fashion designs, including products like handbags, belts and sunglasses, for a three-year period from the time the item is seen in public—on a runway, say. Factors than can’t be used in determining the uniqueness of a design are color, patterns and a graphic element.
If passed, how will this law affect infamous knock-off houses such as ABS by Allen Schwartz—whose public relations team actively pitches the company to fashion writers as a knock-off company—and Forever 21, which has been sued innumerable times for copycatting? It remains to be seen. But according to the Times' analysis, "A beautiful dress worn by a celebrity at an important red-carpet occasion most likely wouldn’t meet the test. But a jacket that has an original cut—one example might be Martin Margiela’s peaked shoulder jackets from two or three years ago—could easily meet the standards of something unique and non-trivial."
· Schumer bill seeks to protect fashion design [NYT]