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Karl Lagerfeld and his beloved cat, Choupette. Photo credit: Womens Wear Daily

Anyone who begins his fashion career as an assistant to Pierre Balmain must be destined for greatness.  That would certainly prove true for Karl Lagerfeld.  Add stints at Jean Patou and Chloe and his eventual title of Creative Director at Fendi and Chanel, and his career seems touched by divinity.   But Karl is so much more than titles at fashion houses. Karl innovates constantly, never loses touch with what’s new, and listens to no one but himself (and perhaps his cat, Choupette).  At around eighty years old – he famously obfuscates his actual age – he has now influenced more than half a century of fashion worldwide.

The Karl Lagerfeld of today is an over-the-top fashion icon.  The white hair tied in a ponytail, the black and white ensembles, and the ever present black sunglasses and gloves, only add to his chic mystique. His “look” is part uniform, part branding, and part crisp German perfectionism.

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A little known sketch by Karl Lagerfeld, photographed in the FENDI headquarters in Rome, Italy.

Some of his appeal stems from his unfiltered honesty and outrageous quotes.   One of my personal favorites is, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.  You lost control of your life and so you bought a pair of sweatpants.”  I can’t even read that line without chuckling.

There is his almost equally famous cat, Choupette.  Anyone with a beloved pet can appreciate his love and attention to Choupette, but because he’s Karl, he takes this love to an outlandish level.  Choupette has two maids and gets her own hotel room when they travel.  He’s said that he would marry Choupette if it were legal, adding, “I never thought I would fall in love like this with a cat”.

Karl, who famously invented the Fendi double F logo (which stands for “Fun Fur”) and who is an accomplished photographer and artist as well as a fashion designer, surprisingly dismisses the notion that fashion is art.

Equating fashion to art might be taking things just a bit too seriously for Karl.  After all, this is the guy who said “Everything I say is a joke.  I am a joke myself.”

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“What is couture if not absolutely bespoke, both in make as well as concept?” – Varun Bahl Photo Credit: ELLE India November 2015

COPYRIGHT IN EMBELLISHMENTS, ORNAMENTATION, AND TEXTILES

I was blown away when I visited Varun Bahl‘s studio in Delhi, India in 2011.  It was mesmerizing to see up close the details of the hand embroidery, beadwork, and embellishments that make up so many of his designs.  Varun is a true couturier. Nothing is mass-produced – it wouldn’t be possible with the level of intricacy in the textiles. And the good thing is,  textiles and patterns are among those fashion design elements – some of the few – that are almost universally protected by intellectual property laws.

India is one of the world’s leading producers of textiles-the sixth largest global exporter of textiles in the world.  India’s Copyright Act (1957) and the Design Act (2000) collectively give the guidelines for copyright protection for designs and textiles, as well as geographical indication protection for some textiles. Like many other jurisdictions, registration of a textile design in India is strongly encouraged to secure protection and reduce potential liability from or opposition by another party.

And although many countries offer copyright protection for fashion garments in their entirety, the United States does not. Various legislators and members of the fashion industry have worked tirelessly to gain support for the Innovative Design Protection Act (IDPA), a proposed amendment to the Copyright Act that would give US copyright protection for full fashion designs, expanding on the current US protection that only extends to certain elements of the designs. By doing so, the US protection of fashion designs would reach a level of protection comparable to many European and Asian countries, India included.

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Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar Bride India

Varun can rest easy in the knowledge that many of the unique and amazing features of his garments rightfully enjoy strong protection globally.  Fashion designs are not protected equally around the world but textiles are given almost universal proteciton.

If you’d like to know more about how to protect and/or register your copyright for designs or textiles, contact me at layne@laynerandolph.com.

Thanks to Varun Bahl for his cooperation with this post. If you’d like to learn more about Varun Bahl and see more of his designs, you can find him on Facebook or at his website VARUN BAHL.  

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New York Fashion Week

Fashion week has become “20 million people with zero connection to the clothes.” – Oscar de la Renta

There is a new movement happening around New York fashion week. Many fashion professionals believe that the hordes of wanna-be and real fashion fans/bloggers have seriously mucked up the affair.  The result is that many true fashion insiders are reluctant to attend, causing some to wonder whether fashion bloggers are ruining NY Fashion Week.  IMG, the company that organizes Fashion Week, is trying to revamp what has “developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for [the] industry to effectively do business,” according to Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director for IMG (Courtesy of NYMag).

Others argue that fashion bloggers bring new interest to Fashion Week and make it accessible to all.  Many fashion bloggers attend Fashion Week only to try to grab some attention by wearing outrageous street fashion to use for their own publicity.  But these bloggers also provide free advertising for the designers.  But of course the free advertising also provides free publicity to the blogger, who often has no legitimate tie to the fashion industry other than stalking Fashion Weeks and vying to be photographed.  The media focus from the fashion model to the little known blogger is ubiquitous, and not everyone is happy about it.

New plans for how to manage these adaptations to the industry include strictly limiting invitations to legitimate fashion industry insiders and thereby limiting those with what IMG describes as having a “tenuous connection to the fashion industry” from crashing the party, at least inside the shows.

 

 

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Fashion illustration by Juan J. Rivera

What a great event hosted by BLACA and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP in London!! I especially loved meeting all of the Queen Mary IP Masters students who “crashed” the event (I’m glad you did) and the London-based IP professionals who were so knowledgable and collaborative.  Thank you for hosting me and making me feel so welcome. Check out the BLACA website  for more information about the organization and check out my Facebook Page for upcoming photos.  Special thanks to Brigitte Lindner, Darrell Panethiere and Simon Clark!

 

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Speaking to students in the Queen Mary IP Masters program in London.

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Fashion Illustration by Juan J. Rivera

Celebrate for Coco!! November 18 is the 89th anniversary of one of the most famous trademarks in beauty/fashion: CHANEL. Although used in commerce in the US as early as 1920, the company filed its US trademark application for CHANEL and the interlocked CC associated with cosmetics and toiletries on November 18, 1924. And the rest is history.

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Photo Credit: Isabella Bejarano

Orly Ruaimi’s jewelry designs have graced the arms, wrists, and necks of many celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Will.I.Am.  Her designs embody the phrase “fashion as art”. This view traces its origins back to the French Copyright Act of 1793, which classified fashion as an applied art.

Clothing design is not considered art under US law because the US considers clothing functional.  But there are fashion items that receive protection, such as jewelry and certain embellishments. The US Copyright Office provides copyright registration for original jewelry design as a “work of the visual arts.” Jewelry design includes 3-dimensional designs applied to rings, pendants, earrings, necklaces, etc. Copyright protection is automatic in the US; that is, copyright exists as soon as the design is fixed in tangible form in some way – even on paper.

Although copyright protection is automatic, there are advantages to registering your designs with the Copyright Office.  First, it provides prima facie evidence of a design’s originality.  Second, it provides proof of ownership.  And third, it gives the owner the right to bring suit in federal court to protect the copyright.  (See www.copyright.gov for more information).

Copyright enforcement is not as simple. The standard to prove infringement is to show that the potentially infringing object has “substantial similarity” to your design.  This is something that can be complicated and expensive to prove since most jewelry designs incorporate shapes and objects that are already in the public domain (leaves, circles, etc.).  It is very possible that designers could create similar looks independently. Therefore, copyright protection is hard to enforce even with a registration, if your pieces are not objectively unique.  Conversely, the more unique/original and the more art-like your jewelry design, the easier it is to protect your rights against potential infringers.

Orly Ruaimi’s designs are so unique, knock-offs are likely less common. Still, as the court in Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Honora Jewelry Co. famously stated, “There is nothing anyone can design or manufacture which someone else cannot make worse and sell for less.”

And that’s where intellectual property rights come in, to help protect the rights of the creators of these beautiful original works.

We thank Ms. Ruaimi for her participation in this post and wish her much continued success. For more information, please visit www.orlyruaimi.com

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Monisha Raja, Owner of “Love is Mighty”

Monisha Raja’s “Love is Mighty” brand embodies what she calls “”compassionate living”.  Not only are the shoes and handbags made of vegan and often recycled materials, but her Indian production operation employs Indian women from local tribes who are keeping their ancient crafts alive and providing for their families as well.  Picture vibrant textured clutches made from vintage saris, and sandals made with intricate hand beading.  The shoes and bags are not only beautiful, every item is necessarily a one-of-a-kind.

When asked if she had any concerns about competitors’ attempts to copy her concept or even her products, Monisha says she tries not to rely too heavily on intellectual property protections.  She knows that the fashion business is fast-paced and that some designers are quick to cut corners to capitalize on it.  But she feels that increased protection such as the proposed Innovative Design Protection Act could be “a hindrance for the designer, causing him/her to be overly cautious.” Monisha Raja strongly feels that while there may be clear instances of glaring intellectual property infringement involving misappropriation of a logo or a trademarked label, legal protection for design must stay flexible so as not to stifle creativity. 

Monisha explains that she owes much of her design inspiration to Issey Miyake and Dries Van Noten and shares that in the years following her education at Parsons School of Design, their work influenced her approach to design. She worked for Miyake and through that experience gained a deep appreciation for his textiles and designs.  As she transitioned to shoe design she tried to capture the overall feel of Miyake’s work. But, as she makes clear, nothing in her collection makes an express reference to Miyake.  Instead, his work inspired her to build on her natural instincts and create her own brand of design.

So, Monisha doesn’t spend time worrying if others are trying to copy her.  Instead, she protects the artisanal work that makes the Love Is Mighty brand so strong, by maintaining loyal relationships with suppliers and the local artisans in India.  

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The Heera shoe, a “Love is Mighty” bestseller.

The Heera shoe, made of recycled biscuit wrappers, has been such a bestseller that she recently declined an investment proposed by a large shoe manufacturing company that offered to expand her business via manufacturing in China. In her opinion, this would have been the antithesis of her company’s principles. It’s the handwork, stitching and beading that make her products special and it’s the story behind her label that makes the Love is Mighty brand as memorable as it is inspiring.

Layne Randolph, Esq. and Juan J. Rivera would like to thank Monisha Raja for her participation; we wish her much continued success with her growing company.

 

 

 

June_2013_JJR_Illustration_LR_Esq_Website_Graphic_2Trademark litigation has captured the attention of the fashion industry once again following Christian Louboutin’s recently filed charges in the Southern District of New York late last month, which alleges trademark infringement against Alba Footwear and Easy Pickins, the primary named defendants in a complaint submitted by Harvey Lewin, Esq., counsel for Christian Louboutin, and the more recent Louboutin v. Charles Jourdan case. The charges have raised questions about the future and direction of the federal circuit court’s outlook on Louboutin’s trademark infringement case in 2012, which culminated with the Second Federal Circuit Court ruling that Louboutin’s signature red soles could be protected under “certain circumstances” when the red soles contrast with the rest of the shoe. As the fashion and legal worlds now anxiously await developments in this new case, designers and fashion companies have mixed reactions to these recent cases in light of business pressures and potential “limitations” on creativity for those who wish to assure a competitive edge in an industry that relies on novelty.  In sum, it proposes an unprecedented challenge on the creative and business/legal ends of the industry. Aside from establishing trends or redefining new classics in fashion, developing unique products also has legal ramifications. The creative world in the fashion industry must also be concerned with how the impact of trademark protection for these goods will prospectively secure their longevity, business strength, and popularity with consumers. The answer lies, in part, in how the public values and understands these products. As fashion companies strive to keep their collections and products fresh and enlivened with a unique character, consumers’ appreciation for these goods touches on the legal concept of distinctiveness.   We will discuss distinctiveness in fashion law in upcoming posts in our DESIGNER SERIES, starting next week. Stay tuned.

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Let’s face it: fashion and luxury are pretty superficial. But here’s a chance for all fashionistas to be do-gooders too.  Help the young women of the Cheyenne River reservation experience an American rite of passage – high school prom! Donate your gently used items and make some sweet kids really happy.

You can find details on the Cheyenne River Youth Project here.

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Stella McCartney is no stranger to struggle.

Once upon a time, McCartney was snubbed as a “T-shirt designer” by Karl Lagerfield in her early fashion design days.  But Stella McCartney has officially arrived as 2012 draws to a close.  She received awards for the “Designer of the Year” and “Designer Brand of the Year” at the British Fashion Awards ceremony held last week.

McCartney’s recognition from her international growth, celebrity following among the Hollywood stars, and status as an “Olympian” designer for the Team Great Britain in 2012 is conclusive of her rightful place among Britain’s premier fashion designers.  And her T-shirts paired with tailored pant suits have become a cult favorite in fashionista circles.  Her refusal to use leather or fur in her designs and products costs her profit margin dearly, but she embraces the challenge.  For McCartney, a “challenge” is the opportunity to take action, which she seeks in everything from fashion design to the environment.

Stella McCartney’s greatest triumphs are likely yet to come.  Her luxury brand will be the first to join the Natural Resources Defense Council in its Clean by Design program in addressing pollution resulting from textile production.  And that’s just one of many challenges on Stella McCartney’s horizon.  Stay tuned….