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It's now time for US to catch up with European practice, Fashion Law expert
May '11
Fashion Law expert argues that it is time for the U.S. to catch up with European practice and fulfill our international treaty obligations by extending copyright protection for fashion designs.

"The U.S.A. must begin to accord the same legal respect to fashion designs that it does to other copyrightable creative work. A new bill proposed most by Senator Charles Schumer would extend copyright protection to fashion designs. This new law would not only prevent widespread American fashion piracy and protect the innovative creations of young designers like Jason Wu, it would bring U.S. practice into line with European practice," said Fashion Institute of Technology Professor Guillermo C. Jimenez in a statement meant to accompany his presentation at United Nations during an event organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – World Intellectual Property Day.

"Imitation and influence will always be an important part of fashion" said Jimenez, "But today we witness in America a plague of 'close copying,' which is a type of identical imitation that borders on counterfeiting. This kind of close copying has been made illegal in Europe – but we have not seen any resultant decline in European fashion, which remains vibrant. Fears that the new law would lead to frivolous litigation have been overstated.”

According to Jimenez, the vast bulk of fashion designs can never be protected by intellectual property because they are not new or innovative. The new form of copyright protection for fashion will only protect designs which are completely new, which is always a small percentage of total fashion.

“Nonetheless, “ argued Jimenez, “These creative new designs deserve exactly as much respect as any new pop record, new sculpture, or new television commercial – all cultural products already protected by copyright.”

“Over and over again we hear the faulty argument that this new law would lead to frivolous litigation which would damage the fashion industry. However, all the evidence suggests otherwise, in particular the research carried out by Professor Jeannie Suk of Harvard Law School, has established that we actually have much more litigation over design piracy in the U.S. than they do in Europe.”

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the official world inter-governmental body charged with maintaining and supervising international intellectual property treaties, such as the Berne Convention, which covers international copyright.

Guillermo C. Jimenez teaches fashion law, international law and business at the Fashion Insitute of Technology (State University of New York – SUNY), Iona College and the International School of Management (Paris). A graduate of Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley, he has lectured in over 35 countries and addressed a number of international organizations and bodies including the United Nations and European Commission.

Guillermo C. Jimenez

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