Fashion Law: The Legalities of Clothing and Accessories

Fashion law, also known as apparel law, is an emerging legal specialty that encompasses issues surrounding the life of a garment from conception to brand protection. Fashion law clients include designers, fashion houses, distributors, manufacturers, modeling agencies, retailers, and photographers.

What is Fashion Law?

Fashion law relates to the law of fashion. Think of it as the law of clothing, the trends, and the industry practices. It examines intellectual property rights, trademark rights, and issues involving unsafe working conditions.

What’s in a Name?

Some people think that fashion law is a game. But if you look at the letters on a piece of paper or on a legal document, you see that the term “clothing” doesn’t start with a “K.” The word “clothing” comes from the Latin word “cloaca,” which means “garment.” So, fashion law is the law of fashion.

Definition of Fashion Law

A fashion law lawyer is a lawyer who deals with clothing and fashion law. Like a surgeon or an accountant, they focus on providing legal services and answering legal questions related to fashion and fashion law.

How Fashion Law Protects Designers

Fashion law is a growing field and one of the fastest-growing areas of law today. As such, there are a number of law firms, chambers of commerce, organizations, and academic institutes that provide insight into fashion law.

Size of the Clothing Industry

The clothing and accessories industry is very large and highly competitive. In 2016, the world retail market was worth about $21.2 trillion. In this context, clothing and accessories accounted for approximately 3.1 percent.

Typical Firms in Fashion Law

The U.S. is by far the largest fashion law market in the world, followed by Western Europe and then China. Large U.S. law firms are very competitive on price, but will also hire top legal talent from smaller firms.

Copyrighting Your Designs

Design copyright law typically concerns the terms under which a designer can copyright an original design, rather than an individual garment or accessory. Under copyright law, copyrighted material can be protected for 70 years after an author’s death, though the actual term of protection depends on the type of work and the complexity of the design.

Designs under copyright law, including fashion, should be clearly marked with clear instructions and directions as to how to take specific actions and protect the copyright. An excellent designer will always include clear instructions in their design files, and each garment should bear a unique mark identifying its designer.

The Lifecycle of a Garment

Fashion law can also be known as product law, which is the law of how a product is used and treated during its time in the marketplace. For example, when a garment is sold at an outlet or retails in store, this is often referred to as a secondary market.

An established secondary market may include returning items that are not in quality, damaged, or defective. This can be done in many ways, including by returning merchandise that is not the same size as when it was purchased or if a garment does not fit.

When a retailer sells a garment to a customer and then later returns the same garment to the manufacturer for a variety of reasons, this is called pre-owned merchandise. Pre-owned merchandise can be very costly to purchase and resell.

Trade Secrets

Much of the time, when a client requests legal representation in a fashion dispute, the challenge lies in determining the issue on which to base the case.

Trademark, Patent, and Copyright Protection

This area of fashion law may be referred to as intellectual property (IP). IP may be viewed as either a trade secret or intellectual property. Both forms of IP are important in fashion law. Trademark law protects products or services. Trademarks are often protected for a limited number of years but maybe longer under the laws of some states. Copyright protection protects the creation of a literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or industrial work. Trademarks and copyrights may be used by the same entity.

Trade Dress Protection

Trade dress law involves analyzing the overall appearance of a product to determine whether it is distinguishable from others within a set category. For example, the color red may be protected in a print t-shirt because it is a unique color that may not be used in other similar products that compete with it. Product developers must ensure that any products under their label are distinct from others that are similar in appearance.

Creative Commons License

Do not use any of our images without following our guidelines and requesting permission first. We reserve all right to deny permission for uses that are not appropriate.

Featured Image: ‘Velvet Collection #50 Fashion Law Courtroom Red Silk Blouse’ by Shane Original.

What is the fashion law society?

The Fashion Law Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and preparing the next generation of lawyers to become leaders in the fashion and apparel industry. The society, which is run by fashion law experts, provides opportunities for its members to receive hands-on training at prominent law firms, where they engage in discussions with experts, participate in mock trials, and participate in discussions with other members.

The society also organizes and sponsors industry-focused events and conferences to discuss legal issues, and members are invited to serve on the panel at events for which they are named by their peers as the leading legal minds in the industry.

Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Uncategorized