Every designer at some point in their career may end up being confronted with one of the biggest issues of "knocking off" one's designs.

How can it be prevented? What can be done once it happens? MR Magazine posed these questions to esteemed fashion law expert

Douglas Hand, read below to see what he had to say about dealing with this issue. 

Fashion Law:

 How to Protect Yourself From Knock- Offs

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One of the biggest issues every designer may end up contending with at some point - especially early in his or her career - is the "knocking

off" or copying of one's designs? It can be a heartbreaking moment to see all your hard work being used by another designer. How can it be

prevented? What can be done once it happens? Or is it just a fact of life to be dealt with? We posed these questions to noted fashion law

expert Douglas Hand, who shared his thoughts with MR. 


Q: What is the difference between trademark, copyright and patent protection, especially as it applies to design? 


A: Trademark law provides protection for names, logos, slogans, or even product designs that serve as source identifiers for fashion

products. For example, both the Ralph Lauren name and the polo player logo are trademarks of the Ralph Lauren Corporation and may not

be used by any other organization without a license to do so. 


Design patents protect the look or ornamental nature of a design, so long as it is novel, non-functional, and non-obvious.It is not uncommon

for the designs of handbags, shoes, and jewelry designs to be the subject matter of design patents. Because clothing designs are

considered predominantly useful, they typically do not fall within the protections afforded by design patents. For most articles of apparel, and

even some accessories, design patents are not a feasible option becasue of the resources and time required to prosecute the patent before

the US Patent and Trademark Office. The process of applying for a design patent can take several years, which exceeds the life expectancy

of the market for most designs. 

Copyright protection is limited as it does not protect "useful articles" such as clothing. So it only coveres limited categories of fashion design,

namely: fabric patterns (of sufficient originality); images affixed to garments; some embroidery, beading, and lace; original jewelry; and certain

elements of "fanciful" costumes. There is a case in front of the Supreme Court right now (Star Athetica v Varsity Brands - regarding, of all

things, cheerleader uniforms) which may add more color to copyright protection for fashon designs. Head over to MR Magazine for the full