In certain circumstances, fashion designers are protected by copyright law. Graphics, logos, and prints may be considered products of creative expression that can only be copied with the copyright holder’s permission. If you are a fashion designer and you have questions about copyright law, or you intend to bring a suit for infringement of your creation, consult with the team at Duncan Firm to get answers to your questions and explore your options.
American and European copyright laws differ in their treatment of fashion designers. In Europe, which has long had a thriving fashion industry in cities such as Paris and Milan, designers enjoy more protections, including recognition of copyright for their clothing designs.
In America, designs are generally not protected. This means that you may design an outfit with a certain shape, accessories, fabric type, etc., and a company may be legally allowed to copy and sell that design. This gap in the law has allowed the fast fashion industry to flourish by copying celebrity designer outfits and selling versions of them for cheaper prices.
However, graphic elements that you create, including logos, prints, and patterns, may be eligible for copyright protection. If someone is selling your graphic design elements without permission and you have registered the copyright with the US Copyright Office, you may have grounds to sue.
One aspect of copyright law that often applies to fashion designers is called the “idea-expression dichotomy.” This stipulates that ideas cannot be copyrighted, only the expression of those ideas.
For example, if you design an outfit with a floral print and discover that someone else is selling a nearly identical outfit with a slightly different floral print, you do not have grounds to sue, since the idea of placing a floral print on an outfit cannot be copyrighted. You would only have grounds to sue if this other clothing manufacturer precisely copied your floral print.
Though American fashion designers do not enjoy as many protections under the law as European designers do, there are still examples of prominent cases where fashion designers have defended themselves against copyright infringement. Contact the legal team at Duncan Firm to learn more about copyright law and how it applies to your situation.