The World of Fashion: How Does Copyright work with Clothes

KristinKristinMay 10, 20217min145

The World of Fashion: How Does Copyright work with Clothes

The world of fashion involves so many things that it’s hard to keep up with all the details. If you’re an aspiring fashionista then you’ll be really interested in how to get into the field, what the latest trends are, how you can make your mark in fashion and how to get into the best fashion shows. On top of these exciting things, there is so much more you must consider when your dreams of a job in fashion are starting to become a reality. Working in fashion involves long days, lots of overtime, stressful weeks leading up to fashion shows, and even legal issues like how you copyright your work as there is no worse feeling than your designs being stolen or being sued for creating a design too similar to someone else’s. Even accidentally copying another designers’ clothes can cost you your reputation in the fashion industry.  

What is Copyright?

Copyright is one of the main ways for an individual to claim their work as their own and prevent others from copying it, it declares that something that is your own intellectual property. This gives you ownership over whatever it is that you’ve copyrighted whether that’s a design or a product and the legislation is dealt with under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act. Copyright comes up automatically when someone thinks up something new, for anything to be copyrighted it needs to be original and the owner will need to have used skill to create it. If you’re in fashion and you’re having some trouble wrapping your head around how copyright works with clothes then you might want to get in touch with a lawyer. If you’re a lawyer who’s looking for new cases then you may want to consider leads in the fashion industry, legal leads are extremely important to lawyers so you can expand your search by finding leads in the fashion industry too. 

Can you copyright clothing designs?

The simple answer to this is that some clothing designs can be copyrighted, but in many cases, they can’t. Anyone involved with the law will know that it is never that simple, whilst there are rules put in place to try and simplify it there are always several exceptions to these rules, this is the case with copyrighting clothing designs. As clothing is often so similar is has always been a difficult task for judges and lawyers to determine to what extend clothes can be copyrighted. The law around copyright isn’t put in place to make creators rich but rather to encourage more creativity, this is the only way that things advance in any field and if everything were copyrighted then things like medicine would be much less advanced than they currently are. The main rule for fashion is that clothes can’t be copyrighted as in the eyes of the law their main purpose is to provide us with warmth and allow us to meet the public standards of decency.  

The Main Exception

It seems very simple at first, as the main purpose of clothing is to keep people warm it does not fall under the copyright act as the need for people to have clothes outweighs the need for a designer to be able to copyright their work. This gets more complicated when you consider that there is an exception to this that states that features that can be identified separately from the aspects of clothing that are useful can be protected by copyright. In simpler terms, this basically means that if part of your clothing was taken off the clothing and it met the requirements for copyright then this part of your design can be copyrighted.  

There have been some famous examples of this. There was once a long case about whether the design on a belt buckle could be copyrighted, the question that was asked to decide did the belt buckle also has a visual function to it, one that is separate to the use of the buckle holding the belt together. It was found in court that yes, it does, and this set a precedent for most sculptured designs like jewelry.  


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