The creative director of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld once said, “the importance of logo in today’s fashion is un! be! Lievable!” He would know considering that Chanel’s logo is arguably the most iconic trademark in the industry. Just think that something as simple as an overlapping double ‘C’ (one facing forward and the other facing backward) could conjure up so many powerful associations in our minds. These associations are so potent, in fact, that they will make a girl save for months for that classic, quilted goodness. I’ll never forger the day I got my first Chanel bag. It was glorious! But as good fashion changes a person, so does being a lawyer. I can’t help interpreting that experience through a new set of legal lenses – looking at those double Cs, I now wonder how much thought towards IP protection went into its creation process.
Fashion is not always subtle and is rarely safe when done properly but I still tend to shy away from designer pieces that prominently display their label. I fear that sporting garments or accessories that indicate its source too blatantly might say more about the wearer than the manufacturer of the product. It may come off as flashy or pretentious, at least to a presumptive observer.
Presumptive observers aside, the immediate recognition that comes with red soles or a simple “H” on the Hermes Constance bag is an undeniably powerful tool fashion brands wield to drive brand awareness. In turn, brand awareness drives consumption, which in turn creates greater incentive for designers to conspicuously label the exterior of their pieces. Yet, preferences of status-conscious consumers and aesthetic considerations are not the only factors incentivizing the practice of exterior labeling. As it pertains to Intellectual Property Law, it is also a way for designers to protect their work against the encroachment of copyists.
In the US, IP offers designers very limited areas of protection for their fashion designs. While textile patterns and design logos are protectable under copyright and trademark law respectively, the overall appearance of most items is still vulnerable to being copied with no legal recourse. Trademark law offers the most applicable means of protection. As Professor Scafidi of Fashion Law Institute states, “The more easily visible the logo, the greater the intellectual property protection for the item, and the better the chance of successful actions against counterfeiters”. Unbekowist to most consumers, this at least in part, informs the practice of conspicuous labeling.
Apparently what I once thought was a tacky Versace belt with a large, signature emblem on the buckle might have been Donatella’s attempt to maximize IP protection. It’s hard to say…
By Lida Mankovsakaya, Esq.
[Wearing]: Antonio Berardi jacket, Prada earrings, Vince top, Current Elliot leather pants, L.A.M.B. heels