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Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Industry


Intellectual Property Rights

The Indian Army has recently been awarded intellectual property rights for its latest camouflage pattern and the enhanced design of combat uniforms. These intellectual property rights were officially registered, with ownership bestowed upon the Indian Army by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks.

Under these exclusive intellectual property rights, the Indian Army owns the design and camouflage pattern. Consequently, vendors’ unauthorized manufacturing of these combat uniforms is deemed illegal and subject to legal repercussions.

An intriguing development, isn’t it? But do these principles extend to the attire you wear? Let’s delve into the intricacies of intellectual property rights and explore their implications in the fashion industry. To begin, let’s establish a foundational understanding.

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights encompass a collection of legal privileges granted to individuals or inventors who have crafted a unique design or creation. These rights empower creators to safeguard their work against plagiarism or unauthorized duplication by competitors for a specified duration.

In essence, these rights grant creators and inventors the freedom to utilize and control their creations without external hindrance. However, it is imperative to seek permission from the rightful owner before utilizing their creative works.

Various Types of Intellectual Property Rights

India recognizes five primary categories of intellectual property rights:

  1. Patents
  2. Trademarks
  3. Copyrights
  4. Industrial Designs
  5. Geographical Indications

Specific regions may also protect plant variety rights, trade dress, and trade secrets. Each type of intellectual property right serves distinct purposes and applies in various scenarios.

The Significance of Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Industry

Intellectual Property (IP) profoundly influences the corporate expansion and progress of the fashion industry. Any enterprise aspiring to achieve future growth must prioritize the monetization of its intellectual property rights to establish a robust and renowned brand. Crucially, the development of a valuable and credible commercial identity is pivotal to harnessing the potential of IP rights. This endeavour involves the formulation of a robust marketing strategy and the allocation of resources to facilitate expansion and the creation of maximum value.

Relevant Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Sector

Intellectual property rights relevant to the fashion domain encompass a combination of copyrights, patents, designs, and trademarks. These IP rights collectively serve as shields against piracy and imitation in the fashion world, safeguarding fashion designs and products. This protection plays a pivotal role in shielding fashion designers and creators from the perils of counterfeiting and unauthorized replication.

  1. Trademark Registration

Trademarks, encompassing signs, symbols, logos, and distinctive marks, serve as indispensable tools in distinguishing one brand from another. They effectively eliminate any potential for customer confusion, ensuring that each brand remains easily recognizable. Trademark registration is a prerequisite to safeguard a brand from potential infringement, offering protection against the use of identical marks that could mislead consumers. In India, the Trademark Act of 1999 governs trademark registration.

  1. Design Registration

Design registration extends protection to the aesthetic aspects of a product or its packaging when it attains secondary significance. Consumers can deduce a product’s origin from its visual or physical attributes, delineating its uniqueness. This form of protection encompasses a product’s external design, internal layout, packaging, and interior, as well as factors like colour and sound. For instance, the distinctive style and colour of an Adidas shoe fall under this protection. The Designs Act of 2000 governs the safeguarding of these aesthetic and design elements, emphasizing the protection of original designs.

  1. Copyrights Registration

Copyrights cover literary, theatrical, artistic, and musical works, promoting the creation and development of more artistic creations by offering financial rewards to creators. In terms of fashion, copyright extends protection to both the physical and aesthetic components of a design. It doesn’t necessitate protection of the utilitarian aspects. However, the demarcation between copyright registration and design protection can occasionally blur. The Copyright Act of 1956 regulates copyrights.

  1. Patents Registration

While not extensively utilized in the fashion industry, patents shield the innovative facets of fashion designs. A design must exhibit uniqueness and feasibility from a scientific perspective to qualify for Patent Registration. Due to the dynamic nature of the fashion sector, patent law is relatively less applicable here. This form of registration entails substantial time and financial investments.

Advantages of Holding Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Industry

  1. Elevated Brand Image: A robust and renowned brand hinges on effective marketing and strategic assets. Intellectual property rights play a pivotal role in building a long-lasting and reliable brand, often enhancing a brand’s reputation.
  2. Legal Safeguards: In a world plagued by counterfeiting and unethical practices such as copying and imitation, IP registration is indispensable. It offers legal recourse against infringement and counterfeit goods. In the digital age, IP registration is a cost-effective and straightforward process.
  3. Strategic Expansion: IP rights can be strategically integrated into marketing strategies, bolstering a brand’s market position. Trademarks can be used to enhance brand visibility, while geographical indicators can enhance perceptions of quality.
  4. Global Presence: In the current competitive landscape, businesses must broaden their online and global footprint. International IP rights registration is instrumental in expanding global reach. Robust online marketing strategies and domain name registrations are essential components of this endeavour.
  5. Protecting Internet Assets: Safeguarding Internet assets, such as domain names, is imperative. Fashion companies can showcase their products on various e-commerce platforms, augmenting exposure and ensuring proper attribution to creators.
  6. Brand Identity: Building and maintaining a strong brand identity is pivotal. Monetizing intellectual property assets can further fuel growth in the fashion sector.

In an era marked by intense market competition and expanded global reach, the fashion industry must leverage intellectual property rights to secure its future growth and prominence.

Intellectual Property Rights in the Indian Fashion Industry

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) play a pivotal role in the dynamic and highly competitive world of the fashion industry. Fashion, an art form expressed through clothing and accessories, is particularly susceptible to counterfeiting and imitation. In this context, the registration of trademarks stands out as a crucial safeguard for the fashion sector.

Trademark Protection in the Fashion Industry

Trademark law exerts a significant influence on the fashion landscape. Renowned brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein rely on the intrinsic value of their brands, making trademark registration a paramount necessity. Trademarks are instrumental in protecting the diverse designs created by fashion designers across various categories, offering tailored protection for the fashion industry.

Relevant IP Rights in India

In India, several IP rights are essential for safeguarding the fashion industry, with three key Acts coming into play:

  1. The Design Act of 2000

This Act is designed to protect the non-functional aspects of objects, primarily focusing on their visual appeal. It allows for the safeguarding of specific shapes, configurations, patterns, or colour compositions in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms. A registered design can enjoy protection for a period of 15 years.

In cases of design infringement, the owner holds the right to initiate legal action against the infringing party and seek damages of up to ₹25,000. Additionally, legal action can be pursued if any harm to the design’s reputation occurs. The design registration process is known for its efficiency and timeliness, making it a favourable choice for fashion designers seeking IP protection.

  1. The Indian Copyright Act of 1957

Fashion designs that are not registered under the Design Act of 2000 are automatically protected by copyright under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957. This Act provides a 15-year protection period if the designs meet the criteria of being classified as artistic works.

Section 15 of the Copyright Act of 1957 covers the commercial and industrial use of original works for industrial production or furnishing. To effectively register a design under this Act, the following criteria must be met:

  • The design must be an original artistic work.
  • Adequate documentation proving the originality of the design should be provided during registration.
  • The specific garment or design derived from the creation should be applied and not reproduced more than 15 times through an industrial process, whether by the owner or any other party.
  1. The Trademark Act of 1999

Establishing a distinctive presence in the highly competitive and ever-evolving fashion industry is of paramount importance. Trademark registration serves as a strategic asset for your fashion business, particularly in the context of designing clothing and accessories. Leading fashion brands prominently feature their registered trademarks as part of their designs. As trademarks are an integral part of the design, they provide robust protection against imitation. Furthermore, the Trade Marks Act of 1999 safeguards trademarks that protect brand names.

  1. Protection Under the Geographical Indications Act of 1999

The Geographical Indications Act of 1999 extends protection to a specific classification of items listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Act. This protection is particularly relevant to fashion garments, emphasizing the distinctive textures and creative value of the fabric used in apparel and accessories. The registration of geographical indications underscores the protection afforded to fashion products through their unique characteristics and geographical origins.

In the multifaceted realm of the Indian fashion industry, intellectual property rights, particularly trademarks, copyrights, and design registrations, are indispensable tools for creators and brands seeking to preserve their artistic expressions and innovations while combating infringement and imitation.

Trademarking Colors? A Case Study

The case of Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent serves as a landmark case in raising awareness about Fashion Law. It revolves around Christian Louboutin and his iconic red soles. Louboutin, a French designer, holds trademark rights in the US and several other countries worldwide. The red sole, when seen, unequivocally signifies a Christian Louboutin shoe, epitomizing the quintessential trademark. Notably, various companies have successfully established trademark rights in specific colours, such as Ferrari’s red or Tiffany & Co.’s distinctive blue.

Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands: A Design Dilemma

The Star Athletica case posed a fundamental question: can a series of sizes and shapes on clothing be protected? In this case, a former employee of a company that manufactured cheerleaders’ uniforms copied designs from their original employer. The Court differentiated between utilitarian designs (e.g., the cut of the uniform) and decorative designs (e.g., images on the uniforms). While the cut was deemed unprotectable, the decorative designs were eligible for copyright protection.

Indian Perspective: Rajesh Masrani v. Tahiliani Design

The Rajesh Masrani v. Tahiliani Design case provided insights into these aspects. The plaintiff alleged that drawings created during garment and accessory development were artistic works under the Copyright Act of 1957. The patterns printed on fabric, the final garment designs, and various artistic works were also subject to copyright infringement allegations. A Single Judge issued an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiff.

Battling Piracy: A Constant Challenge

Piracy remains a pervasive issue in the art and design industry, with unauthorized copies of original fashion designs flooding the market. Counterfeiting and knock-offs run rampant. Fashion designers can protect their creations through various avenues of intellectual property, including:

  1. Registering sketch designs as artistic works under the Copyright Act of 1957.
  2. Protecting designs under the Designs Act of 2000, covering classes 02, 03, 05, 10, and 11 of the third schedule of design rules 2000.
  3. Safeguarding color combinations under the Copyright Act of 1957.
  4. Shielding fabric and materials used in art and design through the Designs Act of 2000 and the Patents Act of 1970.
  5. Preserving logo designs under the Trademarks Act of 1999.

Fashion giants like Louis Vuitton, known for handbags adorned with repeating brand patterns, exemplify the power of trademark protection through iconic logos like the LV mark.

In the fashion industry’s multifaceted realm, intellectual property is a vital tool for creators and brands. It empowers them to preserve their artistic creations and innovations while combating piracy and imitation.


Greetings, I'm Iram, a taxation expert with a profound passion for helping businesses navigate the complex world of tax compliance and financial strategies. With extensive knowledge in tax law and a commitment to providing businesses with the guidance they need, I'm here to be your trusted partner in achieving financial success. I firmly believe that every business owner, regardless of their background, deserves access to expert taxation advice and strategies. My goal is to support you in optimizing your tax planning and compliance efforts, ensuring that your business thrives in the competitive landscape. I am honored to be part of your journey toward financial success through this blog, where I'll share valuable insights and strategies tailored to your taxation needs. Thank you for entrusting me with the opportunity to contribute to your business's financial prosperity. For more information and resources, please visit