Fashion designers are urging Congress to extend intellectual property protection to fashion design, a move R Street calls unprecedented. In the current fashion market, discount retailers like Forever 21, H&M and Zara draw inspiration from designers to create budget-friendly versions of ready-to-wear looks from the runway. Many designers feel these versions are nearly indistinguishable from their own except for using cheaper materials and processes.
Industrial design patents are already a source of contention - recently, Apple was awarded a 14-year protection against any graphical user interface similar to that of the iPhone. This occurred in a lawsuit against Samsung, which Apple alleged had copied its GUI in its Galaxy line of phones. Now, the iPhone's user experience, characterized by its color scheme, blunted lines and animation, is protected.
Extending similar protections to fashion designers' work would change the way the market works significantly, as fashion has historically been extremely referential.
The U.K. lobby group Anti Copying in Design got intellectual property protection for fashion designers into the Intellectual Property Bill recently passed by the House of Commons. The bill is now at the committee stage, and ACID is trying to ensure it covers both registered designs and those that are not registered.