Fashion and Creative Business

FAS8-A2. Copyright protection on fashion design




In this activity you will come in touch with the legal framework of copyright law concerning fashion design.


Does the term “copyright protection” sounds familiar to you?

What about ethical and sustainable issues on fashion?

Brainstorm for 5 minutes.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) communications include codes of ethics and constitute one way a consumer can learn more about a company’s values.

These codes may serve a variety of purposes—they are undoubtedly one of the ways a brand communicates its commitment to ethical principles. Indeed, by analysing the codes of ethics of some of the industry’s well-known brands, it is evident that they primarily focus on employment and workers’ rights (including equality and discrimination issues), labour safety standards, bribery and anti-corruption, counterfeiting and unfair business practices, as well as respect for (and sometimes improvement of) the environment. A company’s code of ethics is also a powerful tool for improving brand image by adopting a code that responds to the issues that consumers care about. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between companies that are truly ethical and those that merely appear so. In order to protect consumer confidence in such documents, a fil rouge across legal systems may be found (although the specific characteristics may vary greatly) in the laws that protect consumers from misleading advertising.

All in all, it has been said that codes of ethics are a form of self-regulation that contain general principles to guide behaviour and that those codes are multifunctional, as they not only serve to represent (and enhance) a company’s culture and values, but also may cause a company to adopt a specific organisational and/or governance structure.

For a deeper understanding on “The Ethical Consumer and Codes of Ethics in the Fashion Industry” read the detailed legal article here:


Read the extract below about the confusion between the words “ethical” and “sustainable”:

“But what, if anything, is the law doing in this area? The answer is ‘lots’ but in a fairly scattergun approach. The problem is that the words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ have no recognised objective legal meaning.”

The meaning of ethical and sustainable for a woman buying your lingerie on South Molton Street can be very different from what the manager understands of a factory in Bangalore. The law does not really help with this difference of interpretation, the result is a muddle of regulation and ‘best practice standards’ with which those in the industry are meant to comply.

The confusion of regulation is compounded by the complexity of the industry’s global supply chains. Your silk may come from Sri Lanka, your elastic from Hudders field, your buttons from France and the lingerie may be sewn together in Turkey. Which legal regulations do you have to comply with?”

Were you aware of the confusion on that topic?

For more info, the full article is here:

The Law of Ethical Fashion


One of the keys to fashion industry success is to stay on the right side of the law. That is to say, you should avoid the big legal holes that await the unwary designer. In the Fashion Law Handbook by the Australian Fashion Chamber it is stated that the key areas of protection for those who design clothes are copyright, designs, patents and trademarks.

Especially for copyright the following are stated:

“Copyright prevents the unauthorised use of your original artistic work by others, including sketches, patterns and one-off handmade garments or jewellery. Copyright is made up of a bundle of exclusive rights to do certain acts, such as the right to copy, publish and communicate the copyright material. Copyright does not protect items that are “industrially applied”, so your actual garments are generally not protected by copyright (regarding that, see ‘Designs’ below). Copyright infringement is not only direct copying. There are many different types of unauthorised activities that may constitute an infringement. Cotton On was found to have copied the “look and feel” of Elwood’s t-shirts because of similarities between the layout, arrangement and style of the designs. Examples of copyright infringements might be:

  1. Reproducing the copyright work.
  2. Displaying the copyright work in public.
  3. Posting the copyright work online or
  4. Importing counterfeit goods for commercial purposes.

Read more here:


Read a case about copyright protection specifically on handbags:

“In August 2018, the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court sided with the fashion industry in a copyright infringement law suit by holding that the overall style, colour, image and lay out of the plaintiff’s designer handbags can reflect the author’s aesthetics and are works of art protected by copyright. This judgment substantially expanded the scope of copyright protection from the separate design elements, such as the patterns, zippers and devices, to the product itself.”

The full article is here:

Copyright protection on fashion design:



Imagine that you are a lawyer and that you want to defend your customer who is a fashion designer against knockoffs (copies or imitations). Form 10 justifications based on copyright protection on fashion design. Get inspired from the articles that you just read. (15minutes)

Paper, pen or pencil, access to the internet through a device (computer, laptop, Smartphone, tablet)