New Bill Combats Designer Copycats

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In real life, designers don't work side-by-side Project Runway style — a wandering eye's width away from their competitors. Nonetheless, clothing makers still manage to try on for size the ideas of their contemporaries, too often stitching their names onto the label and passing it off as original.

Over the past four years, the American fashion industry has been involved in a tug of war for tighter copyright protection for its designers. A loose-knit House bill wasn't making the cut for creative minds to flourish independently. But last week, after a year of back and forth, a new bill might be giving designers relief from their textile tensions.

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The new bill, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act, seeks protection for unique design and is backed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the American Apparel & Footwear Association, some of the industry's biggest influencers.

So what qualifies as stealing, and what ideas are still up for grabs? Like with most copyright laws, the burden is on the creator. Designers who believe their work has been fabricated must prove that their work provides "a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs" and the copy is "substantially identical" to theirs. For example, women love their peep-toe pumps. And after you attach a sky-high stiletto to the back, you'd be hard pressed to find a closet around the country without a pair. Said pumps, however, are a common style, not an original concept. As are colors, patterns, and graphic elements.

Might be a tough sell. But leaf through an issue of any fashion mag (preferably Marie Claire … wink, wink), and you are likely to find pages full of beautiful designer pieces sparked — and now protected — by innovation. And the new bill may just make the selection that much better.

Tell Marie Claire: Do you notice when designers copy one another's creations? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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