Copyright protection in the fashion industry is currently the focus of intense debate in the United States, particularly centered on the utility of special legislation to protect designs from knock-offs. This article focuses on the importance of copyright protection for fashion designers, and the obstacles to copyright currently faced by fashion designers.

What is the legal rationale for not providing copyright protection for fashion design? Why are designers’ creations not granted copyright protection? Unlike authors and musicians, fashion designers can only enjoy protection afforded by trademark for logos. Clothing is considered a “useful article”—not eligible for copyright protection—unless it is possible to separate its aesthetic elements from its function. The fact that form and function are usually so linked to each other makes copyright protection irrelevant, and thus design is easily at the mercy of counterfeiting. Herein lies the desire to legislate; but this issue divides the specialists, with some going so far as to argue that knock-offs are positive and stimulating for the fashion industry. This article will expound on this debate as it relates to the Fashion Design Bill, including an analysis of the European Design Law.



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