Fashion Laws And Intellectual Property Rights

 In the 21st century, fashion is a massive industry that struggles in a competitive global market despite the minimal legal protection for its creative designs. The fashion industry is a global phenomenon, irrespective of a large number of people showing disregard towards the trivial and transitory development of fashion around the world. Up to the date, fashion brings more and more people willing to pay high sums of money. This increased interest has caused the fashion industry to face many challenges that were not there in the past. When a design become famous, others start copying it, which results in a huge loss for the makers of the original products. There are many counterfeit products of famous brands plaguing the fashion industry. Counterfeit products pose a huge threat to the economy too, apart from posing huge challenges to the profits and brand values of the popular brands.

 As a result, the need to set up norms and rules for the fashion industry to conduct more effective business was felt. Consequently, fashion law came as a brand of new legal sanctity and includes several and special issues of Intellectual property rights particularly trademark law, copyright law and at times it also includes the Patent and trade secret.


Fashion law is an emerging legal speciality that encompasses issues surrounding the life of a garment from conception to brand protection. The clients include designer, fashion houses, distributors, manufacturers, modelling agencies, photographers and retailers.

Susan Scafidi, the United States law professor for the first time in the year 2008, offers a course in Fashion Law and after this Fashion law as a subject has acquired a distinct field in the sphere of law. Highly focused fashion law is a quickly growing field with the advancement of new technologies. Paris, France is known as the historical fashion capital of the world. Fashion trends formed an important part of French lifestyles in the 17th century. This also witnessed circulations of cheaper versions of fabrics. Copy continued to be the biggest problem in the field of fashion. Designers need a system to protect the design before and after being made public.


Fashion lawyers advise clients on legal issues facing the fashion, textile, apparel, luxury, footwear and cosmetics industries. This includes safety, sustainability and consumer protection. Various aspects of corporate, real estate, tax and business laws also come into play.

The work of fashion lawyer includes a wide range of activities from drafting and negotiating contracts to addressing and litigating trademark, copyright and other intellectual property issues. They are also in charge of forming and dissolving business entities and advising on branding development and protection. Fashion lawyers consult on design protection, import-export, licensing and other issues.


India is the world’s largest democracy. Indian textile and apparels are quite famous around the globe. It is thus more relevant today that such a huge sector is not trapped in a complex web of law functioning.

India stands not far behind with respect to the rights guaranteed in the United States of America and European countries. The Fashion Foundation of India is a newly constituted body which includes leading designers from India. These designers seek the protection of Intellectual property rights against infringement and copying. Indian IPR system provides for protection under the Design Act 2000, The Copyright Act, 1957 and Geographical Indications of Goods (registration and prohibition) Act 1999. Whilst there seem to be three legislations which protects the regime of fashion apparel and designs.  The Copyright Act, 1957 protects artistic works in the sketches of design. Whereas the Design Act, 2000 protects to the non-functional aspect of an object having visual appearance which includes the feature of patterns, shape configuration, the composition of line and colour patterns attributing to unique fabric and tailoring.

The third schedule of Design Act 2001 includes an exhaustive list of products and articles in respect of which an application can be made to the controller and these design rights remain in force for 10 years extendable to 15 years in certain cases.

Unlike France, where the buyers are criminally liable for buying a counterfeit product, India, currently does not have any law for the same. Here the owners have the right of moving to court of law of appropriate jurisdiction. They can seek permanent injunction which will prevent counterfeiters from selling counterfeit products. The owner of original products may also move to the court for compensation for their losses.



IPR and fashion go hand in hand. The designs which are accepted as fashions are actually intellectual creations of an individual and law seeks to protect those creations by giving exclusive right to use such creation and reap monetary benefits from the same. The legal system seeks to promote creativity by encouraging more people to come up with innovations. These innovations ultimately help in fueling the growth of the nation. If proper protection is not provided to these creations or innovations through the legal system, the same will result in a loss to the nation, since no one will come forward to innovate. Thus there is a huge correlation between fashion on one hand and IPR on the other.

  • Trademark And Fashion Industry

Trademark is a sign or mark which distinguishes one product from that of other. It also includes other forms of marks such as certification marks, collection marks and labels. It helps to identify, guarantees quality, helps to distinguish genuine products from the copied one.

It also plays important role in the fashion industry by protecting the brand name, image, designs, logos etc. that helps in distinguishing such attires from that of others.

  • Copyright in Fashion industry

Copyright protects the works that are original in nature. Fashion is a form of art, which is implemented by designers on clothing, shoes and other accessories. Under Sec ( c) of Copyright Act, 1957 artistic works are defined which are protected by law. Copyright protects the design works of respective designers.

However, Sec 15 of the Copyright Act states special provision regarding copyright in designs registered or being capable of registered under the Design Act, 2000. Copyright shall not subsist in any designs which are registered under the Design Act.

  • Patents in Fashion Industry

It refers to the new invention which includes new technology to manufacture products like fibres, textiles etc. Patents are essential for commercialization to the inventions. Artists of the works cannot get protection under the Patents Act because patents are provided for the novel invention which is useful for the public. Hence, patents are not useful for fashion industries.

  • Industrial designing and fashion industry

Designs are the key to fashion industries to visualize their products. The term ‘design’ is defined under sections 2(d) and 4 of Designs Act, 2000. Design refers to the shape, colour and pattern of the product. Therefore designs cannot protect the whole garment; rather it protects design, shape, colour and pattern. The main aim of the said Act is to protect respective designs from piracy. Unregistered designs are not protected under this Act, or nobody can claim damages of their unregistered designs


 Creativity is the pre-requisite of the fashion industry as it helps brands reaching places. However, counterfeit products pose a great threat to the fashion industry. This industry invests a huge amount of money to make their product look good and different in the market. The fashion industry is full of such controversies wherein, counterfeiting or stealing designs from original work and putting them in some work and thereby causing the violation of a right is rampant. Time goes by and society develops with constant changes. Different jurists and scholars have now acknowledged fashion law as one of the relevant entities creating intellectual property rights as the sole protector of fashion designs.

                Sites referred:

                 [1] Fashion law in India,

                  [2] IPR laws applicable to fashion law,

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