New clients frequently ask us how to copyright their clothing designs.
The thing is, copyright is only one of the intellectual property rights that clothing designers need to think about when considering the protection of their designs. Design rights, trade marks, and patents also play an important role in intellectual property for the fashion industry.
In this post, we’ll review the role each has to play so you know exactly what you need to do to protect your clothing designs.
Copyright can protect clothing designs. This is because copyright protects original intellectual creations in the fashion industry such as drawings, sketches, promotional texts and social media posts, photographs, and many other types of works.
There are, of course, nuances to copyright law in regards to clothing, so it’s worth speaking to a legal expert (like our copyright team!)
Copyright arises automatically from the moment of creation of the work in question, so your clothing designs are protected by copyright law as soon as you create them. This is one of the biggest practical advantages of copyright – you don’t have to do anything to get it. That’s unlike trade marks or design rights, where you have to make an application to an intellectual property office and pay a registration fee and renewal fees.
However, it is crucial to keep evidence of your creation of the work. We recommend that you:
An obstacle that frequently arises in copyright infringement cases is that the copyright owner can’t prove ownership with sufficient precision. For example, the original draft of a work cannot be located and the infringer takes advantage of the information gap and claims that their infringing work was created earlier. By documenting your creation process, you give yourself the best possible chance of successfully fighting any infringements.
Clothing designs could also be protected by both registered and unregistered design rights.
Registered designs in the UK can protect the appearance of the whole or part of a product resulting from the features of lines/contours, colours, shape, texture/material of the product itself or its ornamentation. In order to obtain protection, a registered design must be new and have individual character.
Unregistered design rights in the UK can protect the shape and/or configuration (whether internal or external) of the whole or part of an article. However, ornamentation/surface decoration is specifically excluded from the scope of their protection. Only original designs can be protected by unregistered design rights.
We can help you register a design.
Trade marks are another intellectual property right to consider for your clothing designs. Although trade marks cannot protect your actual designs, they can protect any branding you intend to use. For example, the name of your clothing line can be protected by registering a trade mark.
Owning a trade mark gives you the exclusive right to use your brand for your clothing designs. It stops anyone else trying to copy or emulate your branding. Plus, registered trade marks are one of the strongest intellectual property rights, because if renewal fees are paid and the mark is continuously used, the rights can last indefinitely.
Patents are registered rights that protect inventions. You can file a patent for many types of new, technical inventions. The criteria for obtaining a patent in the UK are that the invention must be new, incorporate an inventive step, be capable of industrial application, and not fall into one of the excluded categories. In relation to the fashion industry, patents could be relevant if you’re designing clothing with fabrics that have innovative technical properties, such as waterproof fabric.
Clearly this doesn’t apply to most clothing designers, but it is worth considering and keeping in mind as your fashion business grows.
The above is not an exhaustive list of intellectual property rights that can be relevant to the fashion industry. Apart from different types of rights, there are also a number of other considerations to take into account, such as, for example, ensuring that you in fact own all relevant rights.
Understandably, this can seem overwhelming. However, we are here for you to help navigate the intellectual property world, whilst you focus on creating your best clothing designs. If you need help, just fill in a contact form or email us to book a free consultation meeting.
We’ll start with a no obligation chat where we’ll get to know you and understand your current challenges.
Book your free consultation now