Fashion Law regulates the relationship between fashion designers, distributors and customers, making them duty bound towards each other so they could act within the scope of the legally binding negotiations that arise due to the contractual obligations between them. It also provides for the protection and ownership of designs created or used by fashion houses, manufacturers and photographers and the legal requirements for industry events, such as fashion shows. Fashion law also regulates the brand name, image, design, logos and features of the fashion attires through trademark laws.
However, fashion law in India is regulated by the Intellectual Property Laws in the country which provides the fashion fraternity industry with protection through copyright laws, design laws and trademark laws accordingly. Contract at the same time plays a vital role in fashion law by drafting and negotiating contracts for event licensing trademark related litigations and licensing.
The scope of fashion law however, since is a field which a person would think not of normally, there are very less institutions in India as well as abroad that offer young to- be lawyers to specialize in the fashion industry.In India, only the top national law universities like NALSAR offer its students subject electives in their fourth years which also include subjects related to fashion and law.
The reason why the study of fashion law is important is because fashion in itself is a feeling of expressing one’s ideas through adornment and before studying its legality and dealing with its legal issues it is important that the attorney involved understands the emotions behind the making of its clients product. There are many IP lawyers across the country but that wouldn’t obviously mean that they can handle Fashion law cases altogether, although fashion law is regulated through IP laws but the evolution of fashion, has to be thoroughly understood before legally discussing or disputing over it. If a Constitution special lawyer does not respect their country or understand the emotions behind the framers of the constitution which led them to frame each and every article meticulously, the lawyer will never be able to dispute with the interest of the country in mind.
Fashion attorneys additionally counsel on design protection, import-export, licensing and other issues. The huge interference caused by technology in the fashion industry are exponentially protruding in fashion law practice. Fashion law is on the verge of going in directions and to places where no one has gone before. The approach and development of additive manufacturing- 3D printing- is the greatest interruption that the field of fashion has ever experienced, and is turning both the business and fashion law back to front. With 3D- printed apparels entering the market, an entire cluster of new legal issues like piracy and counterfeiting are developing and influencing traditional law practice territories.
The unfolding of technology towards various heights comes as both a blessing and as a bane. Keeping in mind that everything is easily and readily available, it is here where the fashion industry receives threats to its designs being stolen or counterfeiting. But because of IP laws that regulate and protect the fashion industry the work of designers are protected.
Fashion law in India has been explored very recently when in 2017 RohitBal became the first designer in India to copyright his entire collection. Other prominent fashion designers, AnjuModi and Anita Dongre, soon followed suit and copyrighted their entire collection ahead of Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) ‘India Couture Week’.
The reason why exploring the legal field of fashion law has been very less is because although awareness of IPR laws in India has been increasing,the laws relating to protection of fashion designers’ rights remains unclear.
With regard to the different branches under which Fashion is protected in India these are also yet to be fully explored by the fashion industry.
Fashion Designers know the different rights that are conferred to them through IP laws. But, for a matter of fact fashion designers maybe sole designers of the apparel but certain materials that become the sole element of the apparel may not necessarily be the designer’s material. For example, in 2019 when Jennifer Lopez walked the runway in Milan in Versace’s jungle print dress. It was a group of artisans from Mumbai, India who had sewn the intricate embellishments on the reissued dress that helped Lopez look like an ageless Amazonian. But how many know about that?
In fact, many have all tapped ateliers in India to do exquisite handwork for the catwalk, but other luxury brands shroud their Indian connections in secrecy. The question here is although I’m sure the artisans are paid to work on the apparel but is the work is consider to have no value if it’s acknowledged whatsoever. The name of the brand screams loud all over the apparel where, work of the artisans are ignored.
These are in particular one of the few loopholes in the fashion industry whose legality is yet to be achieved and explored.
The scope of Fashion Law can only be achieved to its fullest when each and every detail of the Fashion industry is studied carefully ensuring that from small scale designers to brand name designers are all protected equally. The reason why IP laws in India have started being recognized is because each and every person seeking IPR has had their IP’s protected and this builds confidence and encourages authors to innovate more, knowing that their innovation is protected at all times.
AUTHOR – NITISHA GANATRA