Ever had an Interior Design client refuse to pay, not give you credit for your work, or use your design without actually hiring you? As unfair as these situations sound, the truth is they happen often. Poor planning, client management or incomplete contracts account for most of these situations. Get expert legal advice from a Chicago-based lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the design industry and learn how to address some of the biggest risk factors designers face today and how your contract can (and more importantly, should) protect you. Follow the link for access to the free informational prevention about improving your interior design contracts.
A recent case from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals examined the question “Are the stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and color blocks that adorn most cheerleading uniforms sufficiently creative to be protected under US Copyright law?” The case, Varsity Brands et al. v. Star Athletica, No. 14-5237 (6th Cir. 2015), involves a lawsuit between competing suppliers of cheerleading uniforms and “warm-ups.” Plaintiff Varsity, claimed that defendant Star had copied protectable elements of it’s uniform designs. The District court agreed with Star, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The case holds important lessons for creative professionals seeking to protect their original work in an increasingly completive environment where “knock-offs” and copycat designers are all too common.
Back in 2013, I published “Fashion Law: Protecting Brands and Designs,” an article in Landslide, the legal publication of the Intellectual Property section of the American Bar Association. The article is available here. Although the article addressed protection under Trademark and Patent, in addition to Copyright, one of the primary issues was and is when, if ever, can the design features incorporated into the design of a useful article be identified separately from, and exist independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article?” The Varsity case provides useful insight and analysis on that question.
Are Fashion Designs Protectable Under Copyright?
The Varsity case answers with a resounding “yes.” First, although copyright protects creative works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression (17 U.S.C. 102(a)), protection requires a certain amount of “originality.” Because so much of fashion design is derivative of what has come before, the hurdle for protection of fashion designs is the tension with §102(a)(5) of the Copyright Act. (17 U.S.C. 102(a)(5)) That section protects pictorial, graphic, and sculptural aspects of apparel if, and only to the extent that, the design features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.” (17 U.S.C. 101) §
Courts have viewed this requirement as requiring either “physical separability” or “conceptual separability,” a test that they have struggled to pin down. However, courts that have addressed the issue in the case of designs of clothing have routinely viewed clothing utilitarian because they “cover the wearer’s body and protect the wearer from the elements.” Celebration Int’l, Inc. v. Chosun Int’l, Inc., 234 F. Supp. 2d 905, 912 (S.D. Ind. 2002) “Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea—not the idea itself.” Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217 (1954)
Guidance For Lawyers That Advise Fashion Designers.
In order to help fashion designers protect their ideas, it is important to understand how the court evaluates the protect ability of design elements. The Court engaged in a lengthy examination of the various tests applied by different courts before adopting the widely used “hybrid” approach. According to the Court the best approach to determining whether a design is a copyrightable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work is to ask a series of five questions from the Copyright Act: 1) is the design a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work? 2) Is it a design of “an article having an intrinsic utilitarian function?” 3) What are the utilitarian aspects? 4) Can the viewer of the design identify “pictorial, graphic, or sculptural” features separately from the utilitarian aspects? and 5) Can those features exist independently? The Court added that the design process may also help determine whether a design feature is necessary to the design are or to the functionality.
Key Take Always From The Varsity Case.
First, Varsity started from a position of strength. It has registered it’s designs with the US Copyright Office. The Court gave strong deference to the Copyright Office. The lesson for designers is that it’s never too early to seek registration of your work.
Second, be mindful of the aesthetic versus functional distinction during the design process. Design elements that are required to make the item function as a garment will not be protectable.
A presentation on what goes into creating original designs and how these differ from copycats.
WHERE: Decoration & Design Building, J. Robert Scott Showroom, Suite 220
WHEN: Wednesday, October 2,2013 !2 p.m.
WHAT: From film to fashion, creative industries are taking steps to protect and promote original work. Designers and manufacturers need to know what steps they can take to protect their designs, their businesses, and their profits. The discussion will address issues related to how to protect original design (copyright & design patent) and the manufacturers (trademark, unfair competition).
INTERIORS Magazine Editorial Director Michael Wollaeger
J. Robert Scott Founder Sally Sirkin Lewis
Designer Laura Kirar [Web Site]
Intellectual Property lawyer David Adler
Showroom reception to follow.
Download the full Fall Decoration & Design Building Market Brochure Here.
On October 2, 2013, I will be attending the Decoration & Design Building Fall Market where I am giving a presentatIon on protecting original furniture & textile designs. Those in attendance share a belief that style and design matter.
As designers and purveyors of good taste, you may spend months developing a concept, selecting materials, agonizing over the exact curve of the arm of a chair. Manufacturers may refine the design, invest in tooling to build it, promote it, and get it to market. Merchandise buyers may spend months reading, researching, attending events such as this to obtain and fill your showrooms and catalogue with ineffable elements of style. This is original, authentic design. Authentic designs—pieces produced by designers or their authorized manufacturers—are investments.
Therein lies the problem for today’s furniture designers and retailers. It takes intellectual and financial capital to conceive, create and produce good design. Yet, today’s consumer driven, price-focused economy is making it more and more difficult for a designer to protect and profit from the investment of this intellectual capital.
This presentation will focus on why certain designs are protectable, how to protect them, and how to defend against knock-offs.
Over the last few years privacy, and the lack of comprehensive protection, have made numerous headlines. From overly inquisitive mobile applications that fail to disclose how cell photo data is accessed and shared (Path) to handset manufacturers failures to properly inculcate privacy in the design and manufacturing process (HTC) to security lapses at government databases resulting in exposure of sensitive personal information (South Carolina), consumers, regulators and legislators are waking up to privacy issues.
Recent developments highlight the trend in Privacy
In the U.S. we lack a single comprehensive privacy law, although many state and federal laws address various aspects of collecting, storing and sharing personal information. In the absence of a single, over-arching, mandate, legislators and regulators are stepping into fill at perceived need.
GPS, Location & Privacy
The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act addresses use of location data by law enforcement. The bill (not yet law) requires police to obtain a warrant based on probable cause whenever it seeks “location information.” Unfortunately, the term “location information” is very broadly defined, does not distinguish requests for access based on the level of precision, time period, or whether the information is for past or future conduct.
Proposed Federal Privacy Standards
Two bills introduced this year aim to create a baseline level of privacy protection at the federal level. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S. 799, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, to create a regulatory framework for the comprehensive protection of personal data for individuals, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Similarly, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is promoting a Consumer Privacy Protection Act (H.R.1528), directed at consumers and focused on restricting the sale or disclosure of personal information.
FTC Protects Privacy Under Mantle of Consumer Protection
As a result of alleged data security failures that led to three data breaches at Wyndham hotels in less than two years, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. The case against Wyndham is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to make sure that companies live up to the promises they make about privacy and data security.
The FTC complaint alleges that Wyndham failed to maintain adequate and industry standard security measures by storing credit-card information in unencrypted format, allowing servers to remain unpatched, and failing to use firewalls.
The FTC alleges that these failures led to fraudulent charges on consumers’ accounts, millions of dollars in fraud loss, and the export of hundreds of thousands of consumers’ payment card account information to an Internet domain address registered in Russia.
Most notably, the lawsuit will test whether the Federal Trade Commission has the jurisdiction to compel companies to provide a certain level of cybersecurity in order to safeguard consumer personal information.
Privacy Remains Top Concern
Many companies across many industries, financial services, higher education and healthcare, just to name a few, are facing a wide range of security and privacy concerns, scrambling to implement A defensible security framework and demonstrate compliance. It’s alarming, considering the significant consequences associated with not complying.
Organizations can lose contracts, customers and their reputation. That could put some out of business.
Compliance Preparation & Best Practices
Large organizations can spend many months and millions of dollars on compliance. Your business need not go to such extremes. To prevent getting caught by surprise and to prepare for the compliance journey, I’ve listed below some suggested best practices.
Periodic risk assessments. Evaluate potential damage and disruption caused by unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction of data or systems.
Policies and procedures. Incorporate procedures for detecting, reporting, and responding to security incidents, as well as business continuity plans.
Standardize. Set standards of acceptable information security for networks, facilities, and information systems.
Train Employees. Awareness training for employees, contractors, and other users of information systems is critical. Articulate the security risks associated with activities and define users’ responsibility for complying with policies and procedures.
Test & Evaluate. Periodic assessment of the effectiveness of information security policies, procedures, practices, and controls helps determine weak spots. At a minimum they should be conducted annually, according to Ford.
Respond & Repair. Have a pre-defined process for planning, implementing, evaluating, and documenting remedial actions designed to address legal, PR, HR and related risks in the event of a breach.
THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. The procedures outlined above are merely suggestions and there is no guarantee that implementation will reduce risk or mitigate liability.
Please contact Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler at 866-734-2568 for a free consultation to learn how LSGA can help meet your specific needs.
Charles Colton famously stated “Imitation is the sincerest (form) of flattery.” This has never been more true than in the fast-paced world of fashion where designers constantly draw on prior art for inspiration. As Tim Gunn (mentor to would-be fashion designers on the television show Project Runway) often says, “Make it your own.”
Legislation under consideration in the U.S. may provide limited protection for Haute Couture fashion designs.
Read the full article on FasionsCollective.com.
On July 13, 2011, Congress once again took up the the so-called “Fashion Bill” a/k/a the “Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act,” H.R. 2511 (“IDPPPA”). This version of the Bill would amend the Copyright Act to extend certain protections to fashion designs.
Extension of design protection to fashion designs
The major effect of the law would be the extension of design protection to fashion designs, by amending § 1301(a) to provide that “A fashion design is subject to protection under this chapter” and by amending § 1302(b) to include “an article of apparel” in the definition of “useful articles” subject to protection. The bill would make clear that for purposes of Chapter 13 a fashion design is the appearance as a whole of an article of apparel, including its ornamentation. The bill elaborates on what would constitute “apparel” for purposes of Chapter 13:
- an article of men’s, women’s, or children’s clothing, including undergarments, outerwear, gloves, footwear, and headgear;
- handbags, purses, and tote bags;
- belts; and
- eyeglass frames.