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!
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.
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.
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.