Spanish brand, Zara has helped considerably in resolving legal complexities of the fashion industry and Haute Hippie’s allegation of Zara’s copyright infringement is the latest addition to it. Haute Hippie has claimed infringement of a design print by Zara which has fetched the latter huge profits. It claims that Zara “intentionally copied [Haute Hippie’s] Royal Paisley [print] … without license or authority from [Haute Hippie].”
The US law defines copyright as any tangible medium of expression, including the design of a “useful article”. Recognising the definition’s limited scope and growing garment industry, there has been substantial recognition of design rights under the Act. The U.S Copyright law is based on functionality, an essential component of a copyright to be registered. Increasing the ambit of copyrights, all clothing is recognized as functional and can be registered by the Copyright Office.
However, there continues to be a growing demand from the fashion industry to increase protection for its designs, often citing the strict legal remedies in the global fashion capital, Europe. EU law has a very wide definition of design and includes the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of the lines, contours, colors, shape, texture or its ornamentation.
Encouraged by the same designers in the U.S argue that fashion is also a form of ‘artistic expression’ and the lack of recognition has led to perpetual losses being borne by the industry. As a result of the same, a recent effort has been made in the form of Innovation Design Protection Act, 2012 which proposes an extension of copyright protection of fashion designs for 3 years.
The Indian Perspective
The Indian Copyright Act, 1957 vests in original, literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. The Act is in harmony with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 and the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Act, 1952.
Beyond the legal framework, the Indian judiciary has also played an active role in shaping copyright law in the country, allowing wider interpretation to definitions and enabling greater protection to designers. The Delhi High, for instance, in the case of Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Atul Jaggi recognized copyright of plaintiff in ‘Toile Monogram’ pattern as well as in the ‘Murakami’ monograms of the plaintiff.
The application of law to fashion has been extremely painstaking. Every new case brings with it a different aspect of the law, helping it to adapt to the industry, one case at a time.