Fashion Rules set to raise IP awareness in fashion industry


The Australian government has launched Fashion Rules, a guide to intellectual property for the Australian clothing and fashion design industry. The new website and booklet are a joint initiative of IP Australia (the Australian government agency responsible for administering registered IP rights), the Australian Fashion Council and the Council of Textile & Fashion Industries of Australia.

Fashion Rules aims to increase awareness of IP rights in the clothing and fashion design industry to ensure that stakeholders in the industry are better equipped to consider protection for their clothing designs and the IP assets associated with their designs, such as brands, distinctive fabric patterns and packaging. The guide provides an overview of the IP regimes in Australia, as well as specific information in relation to trademarks, designs, copyright and patents insofar as they are relevant to the fashion and clothing industry. The guide also provides useful information for designers wishing to expand their operations overseas.

The launch of Fashion Rules coincides with IP-related developments in the fashion industry worldwide, including the proposed Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which was introduced in the US Senate on August 2. Fashion designers worldwide are voicing their support for a more consistent approach to prevention of designer knockoffs.

Design registration is the primary IP protection available for clothing designs in Australia. A design must be new and distinctive to be registered. Some Australian designers have, for example, been successful in registering unique designs for jeans featuring a particular style of pockets. Disclosure of a design prior to an application to register it will defeat registrability. One-off fashion designs and jewellery items may be protected as copyright works if they can be shown to be "works of artistic craftsmanship", however, this protection is unlikely to apply in circumstances where designs are mass-produced or used on a commercial scale, such as in ready-to-wear fashion ranges. The Fashion Rules guide also deals with trademark and patent protection in the fashion industry.

Stakeholders in the fashion industry therefore need to carefully consider their IP protection strategy prior to the launch of their products.

Lisa Ritson and Arthur Artinian, Blake Dawson Waldron, Sydney

Unlock unlimited access to all WTR content