ARRRR Matey! Design Piracy Act Hopes to Smooth the Seas for Designers

Latest posts by Heather Schuck (see all)

“Knockoffs” and “Copycats” are too often part of the hard knocks high fashion deals out to young designers.  Years spent perfecting the fit of a signature cocktail dress can be stolen overnight by a larger, more established company with lower price points.  Your signature cocktail dress is now mass market and you won’t see a dime.  To help change this harsh reality, many of today’s hottest fashion designers, such as Narciso Rodriguez and Nicole Miller, are rallying behind The Design Piracy Prohibition Act.  The legislation, introduced in a bi-partisan effort in the Senate, hopes to give independent designers a fighting chance to protect their works. 

To accomplish this, the Act will extend copyright laws to fashion patterns by allowing fashion designers to register their designs with the U.S. Copyright Office for a small fee.  The registration would protect the design for three years and “copycats” found guilty of pilfering designs would be forced to pay damages for the infringement.   While new to the US, copyright protection of fashion designs is not new to the rest of the world.  Similar legislation is currently being enforced in Japan, India, and several countries throughout Europe where the registration last 25 years.  With the US being the only world fashion leader without protection in place, the Piracy Act is a much needed step towards protecting our $350 billion dollar fashion industry. 

As a fashion designer myself, I’m optimistic about the prospect of copyright protection.  Not only does this mean legal protection of my works, but it will add to the value of my company.  All too often, I’ve been in meetings with potential investors to have someone ask the question, “but somebody could knock you off, right?”  It’s a hard question to answer.  Without this legislation designers have to work extremely hard to find unique ways to manufacture their product, use unique materials, or have a unique use that can be patented.  This is often an impossible task and the designer is then left exposed to “knock-offs”.  The Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which is still in committee in the Senate, would come a long way in protecting a designer’s works.  Is it far enough?  I don’t think so, but at least it’s a start!

What do you think?  Pros-Cons?  Comment below or email me at [email protected]

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