Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bespoke IP

The Fall shopping season has begun. While the rest of us buy clothes, the fashion industry is shopping for new IP protection, reports the NY Times. Fashion designs have very little protection under copyright, but the newly-revised Design Piracy Prohibition Act aims to change that, prohibiting copying of the overall appearance of clothing, handbags, belts and eyeglass frames. This specialized form of copyright would be for a term of three years.

In contrast to the designs themselves, fashion logos and designer names are already protected, by trademark law. In fact, the WSJ recently reported that designer Joseph Abboud can no longer use his own name as a trademark - he sold it. After two years out of the business, he's back, but under a new brand name ("jaz"), and in competition with the owners of his own name.

BTW, the customized form of protection proposed by the Design Piracy Prohibition Act serves as a reminder that there are many forms of IP, each with different (but sometimes overlapping) subject matter. A short list includes:

  • Copyrights: Works of authorship, such as books, movies, music, software, art, characters.
  • Trademarks: Logos, brand names, slogans, book and movie titles (sometimes), characters.
  • Trade Dress: Overall look of a product or service.
  • Patents: Inventions, processes, business processes (incl. Internet), software, designs.
  • Trade Secrets: Confidential information with economic value
  • Moral Rights ("Droit Moral"): Creative rights, such as the right to receive credit (attribution) or not have a work destroyed; limited applicability in U.S.
  • Mask Works: Semiconductor chip layouts
  • Designs: vessel hulls (boats) and fashion designs (if the proposed bill is enacted)

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