IP in Fashion Industry: All You Need to Know

IP in Fashion Industry: All You Need to Know

This article on ‘IP in fashion Industry’ is written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.


This article talks about IP in fashion industry and how it can help you in developing your fashion brand. Art is a way of expressing oneself in that case, fashion is also a form of art. The presence of creativity, style and innovation in the fashion industry makes it one of the prominent and emerging sectors. Fashion never goes out of style and also the passion to buy different types of clothes never fades so, as new ideas keep developing new products are also invented each day.

Intellectual property means the creation of minds, it can be any kind of innovative things like designs, artistic and literary works, symbols, images, words, inventions, etc. These IPs are protected by trademarks, patents, copyright and a few more so that the innovations and creativities can flourish and nobody can steal someone else’s work.

How can IP develop anyone’s fashion brand?

The fashion industry keeps growing, the new ideas and innovations in this field are endless. A fashion brand is not only apparel and garments it’s much more than that, be it luxury goods, ready-to-wear, etc. it is up to a brand to create unique things, face the competition and earn success. The problem is when a brand becomes popular the other brands or companies tend to copy things which causes huge losses to the original manufacturers who created that product. This leads to a threat to the economy as well. Here comes the importance of IP to make sure that the originality and rights of the fashion-related properties are well protected.

IP in fashion industry should be registered so that it gives a right to enforce the design against infringement. No one can question or doubt the importance of IP rights and protection in creating and marketing products in the fashion industry. Now, let’s take a look into the protections that are available for IP related to the fashion industry which can help in developing one’s fashion brand.


A trademark can be a symbol, name, word, design or logo that distinct original goods or services from others. This includes the products like clothing, shoes, accessories, fabric, etc. The trademark can not totally protect a product but only protects the symbol or logo on that product yet, it is one of the strong forms of protection for recognized fashion brands. Using an IP in fashion industry that provides a service that can assist with name creation saves one’s business time and money. It also ensures that the designs are market-ready and the names remain for years importantly, in high fashion.

There are different types of trademarks that can be registered from strongest to weakest trademark type, they are Fanciful Marks, Arbitrary Marks, Suggestive Marks, Descriptive Marks and Generic Terms. In the fashion world, there is another trademark law called Trade Dress which creates a visual impression of the total image of a product that includes its shape, design and packaging of it.

 One can develop his/her brand by registering their mark and it can protect their brand’s right to revenue, add value to their brand and help the customers in distinguishing original and counterfeit items. Trademarks are also a cheaper and convenient form of protection and also takes less time to obtain when compared to others.


A patent is said to be an exclusive IP right, it is given to the inventors who can produce an idea of a new process. Patent protection gives rise to the successful commercialization of a fashion brand and it needs a large number of investments to reach the commercial stage. Here, a creation needs to be novel, creative, useful and innovative to be patentable.

If a brand is looking for an invention patent for its new material, this includes the composition of the material, the machine used, improvement of any of the things that already exist or the process for making the material. This ensures that the others cannot sell, use or make one’s innovation without their permission. Licensing one’s innovation helps in a greater return on their investment. The addition of any unique elements to create a design or new industrial designs can also be patent protected.

Fashion brands can patent anything which extends beyond the traditional items that were used for a long time. For example, there are many patented products that are new innovations such as cosmetics, fragrances and other lifestyle products. There are different types of patents that can be registered they are utility patents, plant patents and design patents. So, a patent provides the creator with a sole legal right for their creation and by patenting one’s creation, a brand can protect its right to its own intellectual property.


An artist is entitled to copyright law to protect artistic works that mean, the copyright is limited to drawing or any representation on paper. This protection is given to an artistic work even if it is already published and has been used. This includes a creative element of fashion design. Physical functionality cannot be included and no engineering work can be attached to it.

 For example, a piece of clothing itself can’t be copyrighted but the designs such as print patterns can be copyrighted. The copyright protection can also be given to something that is decorative, resembles sculptors, two-dimensional designs including lace patterns, jacquard weave, fabric prints, etc. So, this kind of protection can be super beneficial for a designer or a brand that create their own fabric.

Geographical Indications:

A GI is a sign that is used on products that have a particular geographical origin and have the qualities and reputation which is based on that origin. Here the qualities, reputation or characteristics of a product must be based on the place of origin

GI is another important IP in fashion industry protection that it can rely on. GI protects the fashion articles and unique handicrafts originating from a specific location including specific reputation or quality.

Trade Secrets and New Business Models:

Trade secrets range from a list of key buyers or suppliers to the usage of software tools for the purpose of fashion design, to logistics management of the whole value chain. In certain fashion businesses, core trade secrets serve to protect the software-based business models. This underpins an entire business strategy based on speed, stealth to produce a limited quantity of fashion products. For example, ZARA, the Spanish retail fashion chain, uses a proprietary IT system to shorten their production cycle.

Unregistered Form of Protection:

When a fashion brand wants to make a new product that has to be just tested and don’t want much money to be wasted, they can choose the unregistered form of protection on their designs. This kind of protection is available in the United Kingdom and the European Union, this gives short term design protection on a product before getting into the trademark registration process. This unregistered form of protection is only up to three years. By using this ‘fast fashion’ protection one can develop their fashion brand with less cost.


Fashion design protection does not intend to protect trends but only the appearance of an article of apparel. Instead of a designer bringing an action for infringement of a registered design and taking several months or years to reach the final judgement if a panel of fashion experts assemble and make decisions, not only the decisions can be taken faster but also the panel can identify the infringements easily and can take better decisions regarding the fashion designing.


The fashion industry is all about creativity still, fashion brands fail to register their products, design, etc and others tend to counterfeit it. Although it is impossible to fully remove the counterfeit issue and the lawmakers have not yet bought legislation that protects fashion brands’ creation independently, the intellectual property makes sure that the fashion industry or a brand is protected and the revenue generation keeps increasing. Therefore, these are the ways to develop one’s fashion brand using IP in fashion industry and owners of IP should register and seek the right of protection for their creations and brands.


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