Patent Protection: Do designers really need it?
October 2, 2007
If you've been keeping up with your fashion news, you're well aware that several luxury labels are lobbying for copyright protection. Without naming names, everyone knows that there are certain stores and brands that imitate high-end designs and then market them at more affordable prices. It's a fashion reality that's fairly commonplace for most of us, but the designers behind the original ideas want to put an end to it. Their argument? It's plain and simple copyright infringement. Except for the minor detail, of course, that the original designs aren't protected by copyright laws.
One article in The New Yorker suggests that leaving designers open to copycats is actually good for the fashion industry. If designers didn't have to worry about other labels imitating their designs, there would be less motivation for innovation. The lower-end brands are actually doing the luxe labels a favor by constantly keeping them on their toes. "Had the designers who came up with the pinstripe or the stiletto heel been able to bar others from using their creations," the author writes, "there would have been less innovation in fashion, not more."
I understand both sides of the debate, but I am not convinced designers should be able to patent protect their designs. Realistically, how would that even work? If Diane von Furstenberg put a patent on her wrap dresses, would that mean no other designer could produce wrap dresses? I certainly hope not.
When it comes to trademarks and logos, however, I do happen to side with the designers. Christian Louboutin is one of the many designers who backs this bill because his once signature red sole is becoming less and less distinct. And when there are carbon-copies of your designs like this out there, I can understand a designer's frustration.
Where do you stand? Should designers be protected by copyright and patent laws? If so, to what extent? Take our poll and leave us a comment below.
And just for fun, see if you can spot the knock-offs:
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