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Welcome to the website of the Internet and Intellectual Property Justice Clinic, a University of San Francisco School of Law clinical program that provides legal assistance to parties in intellectual property matters. For more information, see the "About Us" page.

Our website includes commentary from our students on cutting-edge internet law and intellectual property topics. Those posts are listed below, and more are archived under "Pages" on the right. Enjoy!

Copyright and Clothing

By Elisa G.

   The Innovative Design and Privacy Prevention Act (IDPPPA) was first introduced on August 5, 2010 by New York senator Charles C. Schumer in an effort to provide more protection to fashion designers. If passed, the bill will offer intellectual property protection in an industry that often depends on the use of copying.

   Currently, nothing in U.S intellectual property law protects the design of practical articles such as clothing. Intellectual property rights, copyright, trademark, and patent laws do not protect the clothing industry and its designers. Previous attempts to solve this problem, most notably the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (DPPA), have failed to win congressional approval.

   The IDPPPA provides limited protection to fashion.  If passed the IDPPA would protect only “unique designs” and only “substantially identical” copies would be illegal. For qualifying designs, the bill would offer protection by prohibiting unauthorized importation, sale, or distribution of any infringing design for three years. Remedies would include statutory damages or an infringer’s profits, injunctive relief, and destruction of infringing articles.

   Supporters of this bill say the ability to receive royalties from the production of knockoffs would encourage the investment of capital in design activity and therefore boost the entire apparel industry. Supporters say that the three-year protection is enough time to award research and development without hindering creativity and progress in products based on the protected design.

   However, the IDPPPA has its share of critics. A strong concern is that the bill will hurt the fashion industry. Critics argue that much of the growth and creativity in fashion depends on imitation. These critics argue that the concept of the “trend” is what sells fashion. Because of this, they argue, copyright protection for clothing fashion would cause prices to rise and the creative cycle to slow down. Others critics argue that once in the hands of lawyers and judges, such a law will expand to harm both designers and consumers. They say that the only people who will benefit from this law are lawyers and those who can afford costly lawsuits.

   According to insiders, the bill is likely to pass. Should intellectual property protection be given to this industry, the result might be that imitation may no longer be the sincerest form of compliment but instead an expensive ticket to the courtroom.