Stitch in Time – Intellectual Property Protection in the Fashion Industry

Fashion Design

The fashion industry has seen tremendous growth in India. This type of work includes hard work and creativeness in designing clothes and luxury goods. At the same time, it should protect the industries from promoting fashion across the globe. Great economic growth and revenue generated shows that this industry needs enormous protection of its techniques and designs and it will be fully protected when the patents are acquired by the designers for their innovative designs which are their absolute right.

Imitation of designs also prevails in the fashion industry but protection of one’s creativity should be proved valuable. That may grant the designer a competitive advantage and top positions in the fashion industry. Intellectual property entails three schools of thought, first is innovating a new and unique design which is very difficult. Second, once a unique design is in the market without legal protection others would find it easier to imitate it. Third, if the law does not endow the inventor with government-enforced incentives of limited exclusiveness, the imitator will copy the original creation and will outrun the creator without having to pay any royalty.

Relevance of Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Industry

IPR and fashion are related to each other. The designs are created in innovative manners and accepted as fashions. So, the intellectual of a person plays an important role in creating fashion, and laws are made to protect those creations. The designers get an exclusive right to use such creations to gain monetary benefits. By this, a country attains growth in its economy with the protection of an individual’s intellectual by various laws. If the laws fail to protect creativity, the country may lose economic growth. The plethora of laws in India for the protection of intellectual creativity is the Trademark Act, Copyright Act, Designs Act and Geographical Indication of Goods Act seeks to protect the intellectual property rights related to creations of the fashion industry. 

Intellectual Property Protection in the Western World

European Countries in Protection of IPR

Europe is the center of fashion experts and it is the source of fashionable pieces of stuff.

London, Paris, and Berlin conduct fashion weeks every year. Many fashion experts worldwide present their unique and innovative creations in the fashion world which attracts many people to get updated in the changing fashion streak. In the 15th century itself, the Royal families chose great fabrication which is unique by granting certain rights (i.e.) protection to the weavers for weaving unique clothes. There was even penalization for those who couldn’t make creative designs but at the same time, counterfeit designs also prevail. After this, in the 17th-century laws were made to protect designs and weavers’ exclusive rights over their creations. European Designer’s community followed their statutes and examined the creation of patterns, change of designs, etc., and this was followed till the early 2000s.

After the 20th century also Europe is considered as a fashion for modern and all styles of clothes. European designers give an effective solution in the unregistered community designs for protection if concerned. This is obtained without any formalities simply by making the design available to the public and lasts for three years. Since most designers have become concerned with protection only after becoming a victim of counterfeiting, the unregistered community design provides a welcome alternative to further registration. Lackluster in the formulation of copyright, design, or trademark laws onto the existence is yet to be fulfilled for the satisfactory levels of the fashion world in Europe yet.

America in Protection of IPR

The USA protects the Garments of fashion by various laws. But if we compare Europe and the USA, America does not have that much creative fashion like European countries. Mostly the US borrows creative designs from Europeans. America has witnessed the strength of the fashion industry and IP protection is done in various ways. In design, patent protection and trademark policy are also used to protect creative designs. Comparative to North America, Latin America is backward and confusions are not there between the protection and usage of three major protective ideas of Intellectual Property in Copyright, Trademark, and Design. So, America as far as it is not that developed in the creative senses of fashion, is way too forward when said about the science of laws and practicality as compared to other continents and it is the best one to make such laws.

Copyright in the Fashion Industry

Digital Copyright

Copyright is one of the IPR which protects literary and artistic works. It is granted protection under the Copyrights Act, 1957 in India. Copyright is one of the best ways to protect the creative designs in the fashion industry. Copyrights are used to protect the designs by other creators. To prevent counterfeiting, Copyrights are used and the exclusive right of the creator over his/her particular design is granted by Copyrights that no other person can imitate the unique design from the original creator. Here, the literary works include the computer, tables, and compilations of computer databases. The meaning of art is that the work done during designing must be aesthetic, attractive to the customer’s eyes and it should grab the customers by the artistic craftsmanship used in the work.

In a landmark case of Hensher v. Restawhile [1976] AC 64, the House of Lords unanimously held that a prototype for a distinctive three-piece lounge suite, which was intended for mass production, was not artistic. In a more recent case of Lucas film Limited v Ainsworth, Lucas used the stormtrooper helmets used in the star war films. The Supreme court of the United Kingdom considered that the helmet was not artistic or aesthetic and held that the helmet could not be granted copyrights as there were no sculptures in its work and thus it cannot be protected by copyrights.

Trademarks in the Fashion Industry


Fashionable clothes are always rooted in certain brands which are called trademarks. Trademark is a symbol or logo printed within the clothes for the unique identification of brands. People always have a connection with brands and they prefer to wore clothes in a fashionable manner and as well as for the quality of the goods that the branded companies provide. Once a trademark is granted to a particular company it cannot be infringed and thus it protects the creator from infringement.

Example: Louis Vuitton. It uses its mark ‘LV‘ as its logo, and in its designs as a part of it. Another example is Burberry; it holds its trademark in both, ‘Burberry‘ as well as the Burberry check pattern. It is not always important that a trademark has to be visible on the garment in itself. It can be subtly displayed as well. For example, on the buttons, on the back, or a small label on the back or inside. Trademark law has also led to the introduction of trade dress i.e. the total image of the product including size, shape, color or color combinations, texture, graphics, or even particular sales techniques.

Patent in the Fashion Industry

A patent is connected with technical innovation. In fashion industries, technical innovation is important which may step forward the creator in the arena of the fashion world. There are some examples of technical innovations like Novozymes, suberis, Geox Breathes, etc. Novozymes is a biotech company that introduced a technical innovation of cellulose in the protection of fabrics. So, it takes away some of the indigo dye from the denim giving it a worn outlook. If we take sportswear patent plays an important role where the things used for sports are subjected to patent. Patent documents are one of the important things because it contains information of the products and makes the product easier for sale in the market. It helps to avoid wasting resources and the patent database helps in finding the present and future competitors of the fashion world. 

Designs in Fashion Industry

In the fashion industry, a design is a plan or drawing which can be represented graphically in order to have an idea of what output should be obtained. Design is the beginning stage of a product (i.e.) it may be apparel or accessory. Designs are made in a unique and creative manner by the creators before weaving cloth or manufacturing a product. So, it is an essential necessity for a creator to get verified with the designs in order to get a proper output of a particular product or apparel. Designs is a major IP tool as intellect involves in creating new and unique designs and this has to register as the other competitors in the market may counterfeit the original creation of the designer. Registration of designs by the original creator is necessary as protection is a need for the designs as it may be copied easily by other competitors in the fashion market once it is not registered. An unregistered form of protection is a protection given in certain regions, such as the United Kingdom and the European Union. It is a perk which is available and is extremely useful for the fashion houses and the others in the market of fashion.


The fashion industry is a growing sector that increases the economic growth of a country. But at the same time protection of innovative creations in the fashion world must be of primary importance. Different countries have different laws that stabilize the fashion industries in each country. The ultimate aim of these laws is to protect the creative and unique fashionable designs and goods from being counterfeit by other competitors in the fashion market.