Getting inspired by someone and something is accepted and expected in the modern world. Sometimes this inspiration is more of a direct imitation rather than a creative extension of the original idea. There are laws that have been framed to act as watchdogs for the creative ideas, but it is difficult to keep an eye on each and every development that takes place every minute around the world. In case of fashion industry, there are many infringements of copyright issues and it is not only the small time retail shops that breach the intellectual property right of a big brand, but even the vice-versa for the same also holds true. Fashion industry is one of the most creative fields and it is the innovative ideas that are the backbone of this industry. A design for apparel is the combined result of sincere efforts, flawless skills and intelligent creative ideas. Plagiarism means a lot more than mere stealing in the world of fashion.
Some fashion connoisseurs believe that imitation in itself is an acknowledgement that the original design is brilliant. However, the designers have started taking stern steps against the infringement of intellectual property. Recently, a fashion company from United Kingdom filed and won a legal suit against a store for copying a woman's apparel that were launched by the fashion company. The design rights in fashion industry occupy a significant place under the intellectual property rights, as it is the creative idea that makes the final product popular. The legislation with regard to fashion world differs in various countries.
The European Union has strict laws under its legislation, which rule that a design is to be protected to the level that it is new and has individual character. Under the EU legislation, design that has not been registered is regarded new if no other design similar to it has been launched before the public prior to the launch of the design claiming protection. A design is deemed to have individual character if the overall impression of the informed user differs from the overall impression by any design available to the public before it was available. The rulings delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in recent case have given a ray of hope to high-end designing houses that often fall prey to plagiarism by retail outlets. In United States of America, the Innovative Design Protection Act (IDPA) protects any new design for a short three-year term so long as it is truly original. Thus if the design has been seen before, it cannot be protected under the IDPA. Some of the countries are still following a rather anachronistic view with regard to copyright issues in fashion industry. In most part of the world, Intellectual property law does not extend to articles of clothing, which leaves a little choice for the designers if someone copies their original work.
The fact is that the copycat ideas are not only unethical, but such acts of copying amount to some serious trouble for the high-end fashion stores. As per the available global trade figures, the share of fake products in global trade is approximately 8 percent. The intellectual property right infringements are a serious threat to the global economy and also the global fashion business, as stealing of the design has direct impact on the business of a particular brand. When the imitation of luxury brands is available in the market at cheap price in abundant quantity, these luxury brands lose value in the emerging markets. And thus the European countries are giving a serious thought to raising the issue of infringement in fashion at international platform.
Apart from changing the law, creating awareness among the customers is equally important, as most of the customers are unaware that by deliberate or accidental purchase of counterfeit goods amounts to violation of law. The market of counterfeit goods is widespread and in some countries like Thailand a museum of counterfeit clothes is under operation, which displays more than 3,500 different items, in fourteen different categories, openly disobeying the rules involving trademarks, patents or copyrights. In such a scenario it is difficult to impose intellectual property rights, as the markets run brazenly.
The new and gullible designers are also at loss with open infringement of intellectual property rights. Some fashion giants unhesitatingly imitate designs of the new designers, as most of the new entrants do not have time or finance to get involved in the legal battle with the experienced fashion houses. There are internationally known names among the fashion retail houses that have been dragged to the court by some companies for matter involving copyright infringement. Apart from the big companies and organisations, there are also small designers who have accused certain fashion houses of copyright violation. Unfortunately, these fashion stores still enjoy a long list of loyal customers, as the prices of counterfeit products are much lesser than the original. Thus the violation continues unabated.
In developing countries like India, fashion piracy brings huge business. The U.S.A. has mentioned in a report '2013 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets' that some markets in India are notorious in global piracy and violation of intellectual property rights. Another developing nation China is also facing the same problems when it comes to fashion piracy and the counterfeit apparels are not only sold in China, but all around the world. The semi-organised markets in these countries result in huge loss to the global fashion industry.
Creativity is a gift and this gift is a must to survive in the fashion industry. The infringement of intellectual property in world of fashion not only discourages the designers, but it also impacts the economy. The counterfeit apparel and textile markets are flourishing following rather lenient laws and unaware customer base. Not everybody can afford the high-end brands, and a less expensive version of these luxury brands is not only easily available, but is often what most of the people find worth spending money on.