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Knock it off

Go to a children’s wear market (or men’s or women’s) and look to your right. Now look to your left. It won’t be long before …

Go to a children’s wear market (or men’s or women’s) and look to your right. Now look to your left. It won’t be long before you realize more than a few items look more than a little familiar. If you’re a buyer, you might see a bonanza of price wars. If you’re a manufacturer, chances are you’re seeing red. Knock-offs, flattering though they might be, are the bane of designers’ livelihoods as copycat designs pop up at every tier. These days knocking off top fashions has become something of a sport. Each day after the Oscars, for instance, television tabloid shows joyfully parade knock-offs of the gowns from the previous night’s festivities. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, it seems to be more prevalent today than ever. But a proposed law in Congress aims to put a stop to it. The Design Piracy Prohibition Act certainly sounds like a good idea, but once you take a closer look at the language in the bill, questions arise. Under this law, designers could register their garments for a three-year protection against copies. So far, so good except the details, or lack thereof, have the fashion industry divided. Supporters of the act look forward say it will protect their ideas and earnings. Opponents say there’s no way to prove who came up with the idea first (only who attempts to protect it first) and the protection could be too broad. For instance, I could protect an elastic-waist, scalloped-edged skirt with ric-rac trim, making it illegal for anyone else to use this rather generic design. Another big concern is that this law, if enacted, would lead to a legal quagmire, as it would be up to each designer to protect their designs through legislation. What do you think? Is a law like this necessary or are the current trademark and patent protections sufficient protections? 

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