Author: Sehaj Sarin, The Law School, Jammu University
Fashion Law is a specific field of law, which deals with all the legal issues that exist in the fashion industry. There are many fundamental issues in the fashion industries, which includes intellectual property, business, finance, labour law, employment, international trade, real estate, government regulation and much more. It includes questions of sustainability and safety, religious attires, various dress codes, consumer culture, civil rights, etc. The areas related to the production of textiles, models, also come under this category. The fashion industry is huge, and this industry strives in a competitive world, while having minimal legal protection for all the creativity.
FASHION AND LAW
This industry is a massive global industry, having an international language, and is understood by billions of people living all around the globe. Fashion speaks the language of creativity and many people are ready with large amounts of money to invest in fashion. By the time, there have been a huge number of people evolving interest in the fashion industry and this increased interest has resulted in many challenges. Therefore, it becomes important to set up some rules to make this fashion industry secure. Thus, for the protection of fashion, fashion laws came into being.
BACKGROUND OF FASHION LAW
Fashion is a massive billion-dollar industry and is one of the most inventive and creative industries around the globe. Its major output of global profit business can be seen in the United States of America, as its total profit is more than 200 Billion dollars in a whole year. The term ‘fashion’ itself is secured and protected under intellectual property.
The background of fashion law finds its roots back in the year 2008, when a Law Professor of United States of America, Susan Scafidi, offered a course in fashion law for the very first time and now, this subject is recognized as a distinct field in the sphere of law.
The copyright extensions came from the French and the English copyright system. This system protected the fashion designs, but the patent law was not there to protect the fashion. However, designers needed a system to protect their designs, their creativity, before and after they introduced them to the public, because if they don’t protect their designs, imitations would seep into the market and they would cut the price of the designer and it will create a backward curve for the designers. Therefore, fashion laws were introduced.
FASHION LAWS IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Copy right protection has been denied traditionally and historically by the United States of America. The reason behind this denial is that they believe that clothes and garments are items of utility and are devoid of any copyright elements. However, several forms of intellectual property are available for fashion designers in the United States of America. Under the trademark law, a fashion designer can protect his goods by investing in a distinctive logo and, a tradinge name, that will be recognized as an article by the consuming public. In the USA, a designer can also seek trade dress protection in the overall look of their product to all the consumers.  Not only this, but designers may also apply for a design patent which will protect both the original and the new designs of that designer. Innovative Design Act, 2012,  is the most recent protection, granted to the fashion designers for three years and would prohibit if a fashion design is copied from the original protected design made by the fashion designer.
FASHION LAWS IN INDIA
The scenario is completely different in India. The Indian Legislature has enacted The Designs Act 2000, to protect the designs applied on the clothes in the fashion industry. This Act is different from The Copyright Act, 1957.
The famous designers in the country always seek to protect their designs, creativity, may it be on dresses or accessories because if anyone else copies their design and sells their design at a much lesser price, the people will prefer to buy that counterfeits as they are not costly and at the same time, looks like as high branded products.
The Designs Acts, 2000, deals with the designs (or the aesthetics involved in the designs) and not involves the mode or the process of construction. The word ‘design’ in this Act means only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, composition of lines or colours applied, can be brought under The Designs Act, 2000.
Any person, after paying the prescribed fee, will register his design under this Act, will get a monopoly for time of 10 years on that design. If any other person obviously or fraudulently imitates the design of that person without his (the registered proprietor’s consent, within the period of 10 years and that too for sale, the person who has imitated the design will be liable to pay the damages. These damages will be paid to the registered proprietor and will not exceed 50,000 rupees.
DUTIES OF A FASHION LAWYER
A broad range of duties is performed by a fashion lawyer, from negotiating and drafting contracts to litigating trademarks and other intellectual property issues. They also provide advice to the clients on legal issues involved in the textile, luxury, footwear, jewellery and cosmetic industries. The issues related to sustainability, safety and consumer protection also come under this category. Not only this, but fashion lawyers also consult on the protection of designs, licensing, import-export and other various issues.
Fashion law is a unique field of law, which is growing and will never go down. As it is a new concept, very few people are there who are specialized in this area. The foundation in this area can be built by learning about Intellectual Property, business, International Trade, consumer protection and much more. Fashion law has grown much from the past few years and no doubt, it will continue to grow more but stricter laws are required in this field. The reason behind demanding stricter laws is that there is always a threat of getting copied and counterfeiting, which not only results in financial loss but also demotivates the designer to create something innovative and new. This results in the killing of the creation. That is why, we need to get stricter laws in the field of fashion law, so that everything works smoothly.
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