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Currently, fashion encompasses much more than just clothes and accessories. Neither fashion nor style will ever go out of style. People will always purchase clothing. The idea of a global fashion industry is a contemporary invention. Various creations in the fashion industry, such as elements of fashion design, literary and artistic works, as well as pictures and symbols used in trade and commerce, can be protected by intellectual property law.

Whether you work in fashion or another industry, intellectual property is the cornerstone for defending your concepts. The area of law called “Intellectual Property” guards the creative process. An intangible asset is essentially intellectual property. Though creative expression of a concept is protected, ideas themselves are not. Patents, trademarks, and copyright are essentially all parts of intellectual property law. Regarding the protection provided and its efficient implementation, the IP legislation faces numerous difficulties in this industry.

Issues Encountered

The main difficulty is the difficulty of protection. Fashion design demands protection. Every fashion retailer uses a mark, which is also protected, to set itself apart from competing products and services. The subject matter must also be protected, in addition to the designer and the fashion house. Some of the questions, such as how much models may be considered performers and entitled to performer’s rights, are still up for debate.

A clothes designer’s legal rights might be advantageous in two different ways:

Protection: They can prevent someone from utilising your labour of love without your consent by replicating or using your cloth or product; and

Exploitation: By enabling you to enter into licencing agreements for your designs with third parties, they can make money off of your creations.

IP rights cover more than merely preventing copying. Instead, they might be seen as serving a more subtly important purpose—identifying the content’s source. Fashion firms can go to the next level of sophistication where they are proactively managing their IP rights separately from their business operations by taking a more media and entertainment industry-inspired strategy.


Trademarks are distinctive symbols used to identify specific goods and/or services in the marketplace. Trademarks are the visual face of garment creations in the fashion industry since they enable consumers to recognise, recognise, and prefer these products. Due to the high importance placed on the trademarks that symbolise their designs and the products that are linked with them, like as perfumes and cosmetics, the major fashion houses are envious in the protection of their trademark rights. Big clothing companies frequently lead legal battles to defend the ownership of their trademarks, designs, and patents.


As they are regarded as works of art, fashion designs are also protected in some countries under copyright laws. However, it is crucial to note that copyrights do not seek complete protection on useful products, which creates a conundrum because clothing is seen as a useful object. As a result, only some components of clothing design are protectable, which frustrates many designers. Information on social networking sites, frequently violating the copyrights of famous designers and apparel companies.


While patents are not frequently used in the fashion industry, they are frequently very helpful to protect and encourage further technological innovation, and as a result, they help to build a stronger brand because it will undoubtedly be more appealing to partners and investors in a highly competitive market.

IPR Law in India

  • The Designs Act, 2000,

The Designs Act of 2000 was created to preserve the purely aesthetic, non-functional elements of a product. This includes features like shape arrangement, pattern, decoration, or composition of lines or colours applied to any two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or even both forms. Such a design right lasts for ten years, with the option to extend it for an additional five years under certain circumstances. According to Section 22 of The Design Act [4], a person who violates a registered design must pay the registered proprietor of the design a sum not to exceed Rs25,000 that can be collected as a contract debt;

  • The Indian Copyright Act, 1957

A fashion design that can be registered as a design under the Designs Act, 2000[5] and registered in accordance with the Act’s provisions will only be protected by copyright under the Designs Act and nowhere else. A maximum of fifteen years will pass in this case before copyright in registered fashion designs expires. Even if it can be registered as a design under the Designs Act of 2000, fashion design will still be protected by copyright under the Copyright Act of 1957. In this respect, copyright in fashion design will last up to the fiftieth (50th) industrial process reproduction of the piece to which the design has been applied.

  • The Trademarks Act, 1999 and GI Act, 1999.

A trademark is only helpful for a fashion design when it is so visibly incorporated into the design that it becomes a part of the design. When creating clothing and accessory designs, there is a growing trend among fashion designers to include a registered brand on the exterior of the item.

Way Forward

The fashion industry faces a number of difficulties, particularly in this period when technical advancements are accelerating rapidly and fashion advertising has evolved to include social media and internet platforms as key marketing tools. This offers the benefit of reaching a much larger audience, but the drawback of leaving one open to copycats who utilise the content posted online to advertise their own fakes and deceitfully reach their target audience. Due to this, it is more crucial than ever to address these issues with the correct infringement of intellectual property rights resulting from the development of novel designs.

Author’s Name: Kanika Saxena (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)

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