Late this week, Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced a bill that would protect designers from having their original designs stolen and copied. The Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act extends a three-year copyright protection on virtually all items of fashion from the moment they’re first displayed publicly.
The bill — which we kind of want to call the Fast Fashion Act of 2010 just for simplicity’s sake — essentially does what all other intellectual property laws do. In protecting the work of innovative designers, the act promotes creativity and punishes theft.
But the standard of theft is set pretty high. Cathy Horyn of The New York Times explains:
“A designer who claims that his work has been copied must show that his design provides ‘a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs.’ And it must be proven by the designer that the copy is ‘substantially identical’ to the original so as to be mistaken for it … Factors than can’t be used in determining the uniqueness of a design are color, patterns and a graphic element.”
So there shouldn’t be any lawsuits over the now ubiquitous five-button cardigan with contrast trim, but if someone knocks off Victoria Beckham‘s new line of handbags, they might have to go to court.
But does the move signal the end of the democratization of fashion? Most of the innovation in the fashion industry comes from the very top, meaning it’s very expensive. The famous cerulean sweater scene from “The Devil Wears Prada” does a superb job of illustrating exactly how trends trickle down from the runway to the “tragic casual corners” of retail (Miranda Priestly‘s words, not ours). We can’t help but wonder how the trickle-down cycle of design will be impacted by the new law.