Fashion's Hottest Designs Ripped-Off From the Red Carpet, and It's All Legal

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) August 9, 2006 -- While original and creative designers such as Zac Posen, Vera Wang, Betsey Johnson and Michael Kors toil through the time consuming and expensive process of developing new fashions, knockoff artists skip the risks involved in the development process and simply copy the designers’ most successful outfits. With new software technology, copycats can quickly create lower quality knockoffs by generating patterns from a digital photograph of a garment and can beat the original designer into the retail stores. This currently legal form of piracy robs the creative designer from recouping his or her investment and costs the American fashion industry millions of dollars.

On July 27, 2006, the House Subcommittee heard testimony on the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (H.R. 5055), that proposes three years of copyright protection to designers who register their original fashion designs within three months from the date of its first public display. The proposed rule changes will extend copyright protection to the appearance as a whole of an article of apparel which includes undergarments, outerwear, gloves, footwear, headgear, handbags, purses, tote bags, belts, and eyeglass frames. The proposed legislation will also hold the retailer liable for infringement by a knockoff artist and provide for statutory damages of $250,000.00 or $5.00 per copy, whichever is greater.

Commenting on the proposed copyright rule changes, Milord A. Keshishian, an intellectual property attorney, stated that “fashion piracy has become rampant and there are retailers that specialize in and blatantly boast that they have a knockoff of a recent Emmy Award winner’s gown at a fraction of the cost. Current U.S. laws are counterintuitive because they protect and reward the knockoff artists as opposed to the creative, imaginative and risk taking designers.”

The U.S. Copyright Office submitted a written statement to Congress applauding “the proponents of fashion design legislation for seeking a modest term of protection that appears to be calibrated to address the period of time during which fashion designs are most at risk of being infringed and during which fashion designers are most likely harmed by the sale of infringing goods.”

“Copyright laws currently protect fabric patterns and designs and we have successfully enforced our American client’s fabric designs that were being knocked off by unscrupulous overseas manufacturers and sold by major U.S. retailers. U.S. copyright laws should also extend to the fashion design itself, thereby protecting and rewarding the innovation of U.S. fashion designers for a limited time, yet allowing for inspiration in future works,” Mr. Keshishian added.