Note – Fashioning a New Look in Intellectual Property: Sui Generis Protection for the Innovative Designer

Linna T. Loangkote

Volume 63, Issue 1, 297-322

Fashion design is weaving its way through the fabric of American society by transforming how people think about fashion apparel. The $350 billion fashion industry not only puts the clothes on our backs, but gives individuals an outlet for individual expression as well. More and more, the fashion design process is recognized as a creative process where vision, raw materials, and skill meet to produce fashion apparel that should be worthy of sui generis protection.Current intellectual property regimes fail to adequately equip designers with legal remedies to guard against design piracy, and this affects both innovation and competition. Moreover, even though the U.S is a signatory to the Berne Convention, the U.S.’s lack of a protection scheme for fashion design is out of step with other signatory members, namely the European Union, and this mismatch could invite unintended reciprocity problems for American designers abroad. Something needs to be done. Congress has attempted twice now to provide a solution to the design piracy problem. However, the proposed bills do not wholly consider and understand the competing interests involved in this sui generis protection debate. This Note proposes a unique licensing solution that is fitting for a unique intellectual property problem—showing that protection for fashion design does not have to be a zero-sum game between designers and nondesigning retail firms.

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