Scary copyright stuff: It's not all about the Innovative Design Protection Act of 2012, you know

Posted by Charles Colman

As lobbying efforts for the "Innovative Design Protection Act of 2012" (a/k/a the "quasi-copyright-for-fashion" bill) slog on, and as commentators continue to weigh in on the controversial issue of more IP protection for fashion, as I will be doing at a CLE at Brooklyn Law School this next Saturday [Sandy-related rescheduling], it's important to remember that the U.S. Copyright Act, in its current form, does not completely ignore fashion....

This isn't news, of course: one of LAW OF FASHION's very first posts, "Copyright isn't always useless for designers; sometimes, it's actually dangerous," discussed the availability of copyright protection for (sufficiently "original") fabric patterns and jewelry designs.  (This author went on at much greater length about the various components of fashion that are copyrightable in West's Navigating Fashion Law: Leading Lawyers on Exploring the Trends, Cases, and Strategies of Fashion Law (2012).)

LOF has since taken the training wheels off, delving straight into fairly complex intellectual property law news without providing much foundation. (If you're ever lost, just search the site for earlier posts; key terms and principles were frequently discussed in the first year or so of the blog's existence.  Alternatively, feel free to draw on the collective knowledge and experience of the LAW OF FASHION LinkedIn group by posing a question to the 1300+ group members, many of whom are leaders in the fields of fashion law and/or intellectual property.)  Still, for old time's sake, and for a good Halloween scare, LOF is using this post to remind designers and others that copyright does play a role in fashion, especially for certain plaintiffs that seem to enjoy spending lots of time in the federal courts -- and the defendants caught in their web.

A trio of lawsuits filed in the Central District of California this week highlight copyright law's decidedly non-trivial role in fashion.  Two of the suits involve textiles, while the other involves jewelry.  (Full disclosure: the firm that filed all three lawsuits served as Charles Colman Law's co-counsel in defending WTForever21 blogger Rachel Kane against Forever 21 last year.  That has nothing to do with this.)  The cases in question, and the works at issue in each, are posted below.  (Where two images are posted, the first is the plaintiff's design, and the second is the defendant's allegedly infringing article(s).)

United Fabrics v. Wet Seal, 12-CV-09194 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2012)

Meridien Textiles v. Avenue Stores, 12-CV-9227 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2012)

A'Lor Int'l v. Hyde Park Jewelers, 12-CV-09270 (C.D. Cal. 29, 2012)

Of course, just because a lawsuit is filed doesn't mean infringement has occurred, or even that the underlying copyright registration was properly issued in the first place.  LAW OF FASHION will try to update you on these lawsuits from time to time, though, statistically, they're more likely to settle than to result in any judicial opinions of note.  But even when cases settle quickly, getting sued is no picnic -- indeed, it's scarier than anything you'll see while trick-or-treating tonight.  So designers, be careful where and how you get your inspiration and materials, and everyone else, be careful where and how you get the goods you sell.  Whoooooooooooo...  (Wait, what sound does a ghost make, again?)


[This post is for entertainment and informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship among any individuals or entities. Any views expressed in this post or at the linked web pages are those of the relevant writer(s) on a particular date, and should not necessarily be attributed to this writer, his law firm, its agents, or its clients. Neither LAW OF FASHION nor any person or entity associated with it can or will warrant the thoroughness or accuracy of the content here or at the cited sources.]