Designers Get Protection


Beware copying, bored designers of the cloth. This isn’t grade school anymore and a trip to the office will cost more than detention or a phone call to mom.

That’s because according to Reuters, The Senate Judiciary Committee has just passed the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prohibition Act (IDPPPA) granting limited copyright protection to fashion designs. Sponsored by New York Senator Charles Schumer, the bill grants copyright protection to original designs for a period of three years – which in fashion-speak is when you’ve already moved on and have accepted the fact another designer beat you to it.

While similar bills protecting executed designs have come up before in both the Senate and the House, none have never made it out of committee. Strangely, the similar bill was for…ship’s hulls?

“For too long, the industry has been at an unfair disadvantage because greater protections are afforded to overseas competitors. Unregulated, high-end knock offs are hurting the integrity of this industry. This legislation levels the playing field with overseas designers,” says Senator Schumer.

The Empire State’s senator can’t help but sponsor the bill which helps protect the garment district in his own city that employs nearly 200,000 people in New York City, generates $9.6 billion in total wages and tax revenues of $811 million.

While this bill protects mostly the more recognized labels out there versus indie, Reuters adds that there are three limitations on actions under the act which may be important to the smaller designer. These include:

1. “There is an ‘independent creation’ defense. This means if you design something entirely on your own that happens to overlap with another’s design, it can be a defense to a copyright infringement action.”

2. “Home sewing exception. If you create, cut and sew on your own, there is this kind of ‘fair use’ exception (like in regular copyright law) to protects amateurs from closet raids by the fashion police looking for infringers.”

3. “Substantially identical standard. This standard says that in order for one design to be found to infringe on another, the two must be “substantially identical.” In practical terms, it seems you would really only get two separate dresses, shoes or scarves that are that close in appearance if there were some kind of intent to copy. If not, see item No. 1.”

But are designers the real culprits? Popular knock-off super vendors like chain store Forever 21 or H&M who are known to clone runway looks before they even make it to their respective seasons might have more power than the indie designer working out of her small studio. And with most of the world devouring fast fashion coming out of these hot spots, maybe the bill needs fine tuning.

Image: Tsar Kasim

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.