IP in the Fashion Industry
October 12th, 2023
After enduring years of pandemic-related restrictions, lockdowns, layoffs, and uncertainty, nations across the globe are gradually reopening. Employees return to their offices as restrictions ease, and consumers seek new products to embrace a post-pandemic normal. Despite the continuing uncertainty about whether we're truly out of the woods, there is optimism that this period of history is moving behind us.
As people return to malls and shops, economies are beginning to recover. The fashion and beauty industries are no exception, as this new activity brings about innovation, advancements, and competition. However, copying of products, reverse engineering, and unethical manufacturing practices are becoming more common during this time. While these practices may give a company an advantage, they risk creating an unequal playing field that could cause smaller players to miss out on potential sales if they don't have the resources to keep up.
Therefore, companies making strides in innovation and advancement must consider a more legal solution: an effective intellectual property protection strategy.
The Fashion and Beauty Industry Today
The beauty and fashion industries are finding new and innovative ways to engage with their customers. Despite the pandemic, these industries not only survived but also thrived due to industry-wide trends and changes in consumer behavior.
According to a report on the state of the industry in 2022, the beauty industry generated over $100 billion in revenue worldwide. Although the industry experienced an 8% decrease during the pandemic, 2021 marked the best year ever for cosmetics, with a projected figure of $120 billion or more by 2025. Skincare is expected to generate up to $177 billion in the same timeframe, while the men's personal care market is projected to reach $276.9 billion by 2030.
However, the fashion industry is facing difficulties coping with issues in traditional supply chains, and three-quarters of textile companies have seen their revenues fall by 90% due to drastic and abrupt changes in consumer behavior over the past couple of years.
The pandemic recovery is still uncertain, but promising efforts to aid in the recovery of the textile industry are underway. For example, textile industries in Pakistan are seeing an increase in textile export shipments, rising by 3.8% or $4.8 billion between July and October (from $4.6 billion) in 2019. The global fashion industry is still valued at $1.7 trillion as of 2022.
Both industries are known for being quick and aggressive, chasing trends, creating new styles, and staying ahead of the curve. However, speed is critical, as trends usually last only a season or two.
Keeping up with demand can be challenging for fashion brands due to constantly changing trends, evolving consumer behavior, and new technological solutions. Some companies may find it financially viable to counterfeit designs, products, and more from lesser-known companies, devastating them while increasing their margins.
Therefore, the fashion and beauty industries need a solid legal basis for their brands. Intellectual properties such as makeup formulas, clothing designs, branding, and marketing strategies are the brand's foundation and require protection.
Intellectual Property Protection
Competition has always existed within companies, especially in the cutthroat beauty and fashion industries. However, technological advancements have opened doors for anyone to become a potential competitor. The internet provides instantaneous access to information, and other tech has increased the speed of development, production, and even reverse engineering of products.
While creativity and innovation are crucial in the beauty and fashion industries, it is essential to remember the value of intellectual capital. This is often forgotten in the race to launch the newest product, but protecting this intellectual property is crucial to safeguarding the business from predatory practices within the industry.
Copyright law prioritizes protecting intellectual property, including designs of items that will be sold and featured for more than one season. These protected intellectual properties have become critical elements in growing multi-million dollar fashion businesses and have strengthened companies within their market.
The scope of copyright protection has been extended to “works of the fine arts,” including photographs and music, and in the case of the beauty and fashion industries, logos, and other artistic or design elements. For instance, the iconic Louis Vuitton LV logo is copyrighted, and any item not sold by that brand but bearing that logo would be subject to infringement.
The “copyrightability” of designs on the surface of cheerleader uniforms was brought to question in a landmark case of Star Athletica, LLC v Varsity Brands, Inc. “Useful articles,” such as cheerleader uniforms, may be subject to copyright only if the object’s functional and aesthetic features are separable.
Companies can express their creative freedom within their products with a proper IP protection strategy while feeling secure knowing they are protected from competitor claims. They can focus on building their business and brand without worrying about unauthorized use of their intellectual property.
As copyrights protect original works of authorship and center on the authentic expression of an idea, everything from a brand’s photos to promotional videos will be safeguarded from predatory competitors seeking to jump on the current trends at the expense of smaller companies with good ideas.
A brand's image plays a vital role in capturing and retaining its audience's attention, especially when it is renowned for its exceptional marketing techniques and iconic products. To ensure continued growth, it is essential to utilize intellectual property protections smartly.
Almost everyone wants to gain a competitive edge, so safeguarding your intellectual property through proper registration is critical. This protection shields brands from predatory practices. Intellectual property rights are the backbone of the fashion and beauty industries. Brands depend heavily on their IPs, and plagiarism and counterfeiting can lead a company to its downfall through costly lawsuits and lost sales.