The recently concluded FDCI India Couture Week clearly reflected a trend of Indian designers increasingly moving towards copyright and patenting as there is a growing need to safeguard designs. After Rohit Bal, designers Anju Modi and Anita Dongre have patented their designs from the Couture Week. Copies of designer wear are easy to sell at a premium by small retailers and that’s hampering the luxury business. Modi informs earlier, she would copyright selective designs. But lately she realized the remaining ones were copied blatantly and some stores were even selling those copies with her label. The process of getting a patent is simple and all that is required from the designer is the artwork, photograph of the design. It hardly takes a day to get a design registered, and the process helps designers take legal action against those who are selling knock-offs. Apart from this, designers are also recourse to social media to stop people from selling labels and educating buyers to purchase a rip-off design.
Taking similar route Anita Dongre has a specific department for registering and documenting every design for future reference. As a company, they have decided to patent their designs because, every store is selling copies. Whatever is showcased on the ramp always gets copied faster. Most designs are copied once they are put on the ramp. This is the first time that Dogre has taken such a step. The copies of her clothes are being sold everywhere and she says she knows exactly which retail chains and stores are selling her clothes.
Legal help at hand
Some designers have even taken legal action against copycats like Sabyasachi and Gaurav Gupta. Sabyasachi Couture has succeeded in taking action against three retailers where interim injunctions were granted immediately upon filing the lawsuits. While injunctions continue, the matters are subjudice. There are other cases, including those involving designers like Gaurav Gupta, where the designer have succeeded in taking appropriate legal action against parties misusing his name, image or photograph or violated their designs or copyright, as the case may be. However, one of the concerns in the past has been delay in granting relief on account of lengthy legal procedures.
Lawyers say, more designers are waking up to copyright laws. In fact, the problem is Indian designers are not familiar with the relevant Intellectual Property laws. Therefore, most of the problems the fashion fraternity faces are due to lack of awareness. Secondly, many are under the illusion that design registration is an expensive and time-consuming process. Many are unsure of the commercial success of their show/product, and therefore shy away from patenting their designs, which has to be done before they are showcased. But the fact is patenting is not a difficult process. Not only is it easy, but also the process is quick and gives substantial advantage designers, both in terms of enforcement of rights (through infringement of designs) and even in evaluating the monetary value of the designs for raising capital or claiming damages.