Johanna Blakely: Lessons from fashion's free culture
I love TEDtalks, there are so many interesting things being discussed around the world. Go to www.ted.com to get the transcript.
Here Joanna Blakely is talking about how the lack of copyright protection in fashion enables and encourages innovation and trends.
I like her enthusiasm, but from the legal perspective, she kind of missed the point. Other than trademark protection, which protects the trademark rather than the design – a recent case in Singapore confirmed that the use of a trademark in decoration, rather than as a mark, was not a breach – fashion designers have always had the opportunity to use design protection.
Design protection is a particular area of law, similar to trademark protection. Design protection protects the overall appearance of a product, requires an application, once the application is assessed and appropriate fees paid, that protection lasts for 10 years.
Now, what do you think the main problem is? Simple! The time for assessment of an application for design protection is, generally speaking, prohibitive. Fashion designers would need to be thinking three seasons ahead in order to protect their range of designs and be making separate applications for each piece in their collection. Practical? Not at all.
It is not that the fashion industry would not like this level of protection, it is just that the constant need to keep collections updated with the seasons, and the rapid progression of fashion over even a year means that formal design protection simply isn't practical. Is a legal solution necessary? Johanna celebrates the fact that legal restrictions don't really exist, freeing up the creative process.
In the fashion industry, formal design protection is too slow to be practical.
At an international level, World Trade Organisation discussions on design protection have been limited to industrial and technological innovation rather than fashion.
What really interests me is the history, and whether what we can learn from the way in which the fashion industry has had to cope with the speed and challenge of constant innovation.
With technology making EVERYTHING more accessible, especially information previously hard to access, are those areas traditionally protected by slow distribution going reach a point where protection provides less return on investment than innovation?
Does legal protection provide less ROI than innovation?
What are your thoughts?