Top tips from the experts for protecting your IP in the fashion industry

At our Talking IP session on 14 October we heard from Gillian Ridley Whittle, ex-fashion director at TopShop and founder of new lifestyle brand Peachaus, Jonathan Moss, dual UK/US qualified barrister at Hogarth Chambers, known for representing the UK government in the high profile Cofemel decision, and Bob English, attorney at leading US IP firm Cowan, Liebowitz and Latman, with an impressive range of high-end brands among his clients.

We discussed changing trends in approaches to copying of designs and litigation in the fashion industry, the different approaches fashion brands take to IP protection and top tips from our experts on what to think about when protecting and enforcing your IP.

IP Protection

You should protect your IP as soon as possible, in particular your name and any key logos as trade marks in your target jurisdictions and in respect of the goods and services you are providing and/or intend to provide. This may include transliterations of your trade marks. You should also consider filing applications as soon as possible in first to file countries (where unregistered rights are not recognised), countries where piracy is high such as China and in countries where you manufacture so that trade mark squatters cannot interfere with the manufacturing and export process. Remember to check whether there are any negative connotations to your trade marks in the countries you are applying for protection in.

You can file an intent to use trade mark application in the US to secure your priority filing date before you’ve started using your trade mark in the US. It’s also important not to forget about clearance searches before filing a trade mark application – for registered and unregistered rights, to check what third party rights already exist. 

IP Enforcement

Working in the fashion industry, it is important to train your team so that they know what the different types of intellectual property are in order to lessen the risk of any third party infringement. Myths such as “if you change five things in a design then you will not infringe third party IP rights” should be dispelled.

In the event that you need to enforce your rights, keeping records or catalogues of all of your designs (and even your competitors’ designs), for example by way of screen shots, can be extremely helpful and cost effective. It’s an easy and cheap exercise to do as you go along but a difficult and expensive exercise to do later on. It can be very difficult to prove that a particular element was or wasn’t common at a particular time years after the fact.

Not protecting your IP quickly enough can be disastrous for your business and also very expensive. For a more in depth discussion about optimising IP protection specifically in China please see our previous Talking IP session on China here.

If you missed our Talking IP session on IP in the fashion sector, or any of our previous Talking IP sessions, you can catch up here.

Learn more about how we can help you with the protection and management of your intellectual property and our IP enforcement services.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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