Michelle Imoukhuede, Esq., Mercer University – Walter F. George School of Law and The George Washington University School of Law
#MADEINATL & RAGTRADE Atlanta
Georgia Lawyers for the Arts is speaking at this month’s #MADEINATL workshop. #MADEINATL is an educational series put on by RAGTRADE Atlanta in partnership with The Art Institute of Atlanta. The series features a variety of panels and workshops to assist emerging fashion designers grow into successful brands and will provide candid conversations about Atlanta’s thriving fashion community and its place on the global scene.
RAGTRADE Atlanta focuses on discovering and promoting new fashion designers worldwide. They host several diverse events and produce educational opportunities, such as #MADEINATL. RAGTRADE also has a thriving online magazine and highlights today’s fashion industry.
Just as transient as the fashion industry, the applicable laws can be pretty difficult to understand and are always adapting with the times. Generally, a designer should be familiar with the basic principles of intellectual property and contract law. A copyright gives the owner an exclusive right to control the use and/or sale of an original creation. Unfortunately, many elements of fashion are excluded from copyright protection. This leaves room for copycat designs and frustrated designers. A designer can, however, protect their original print and textile pattern designs through copyright.
Because copyright law is currently very limited in its application to fashion design, a designer can always turn to trademark law for an additional and different form of legal protection. Trademarks serve to protect source identifiers. A trademark can be a logo design, slogan, or combination of the two. Using a strong trademark in connection with a good will provide brand recognition to the consumer, even if the designer cannot protect the actual design of the garment or product.
Perhaps, most important are the numerous contractual provisions relevant to the fashion industry. Like any industry, sharing new ideas with potential clients, partners, or third party contributors is a common practice. The use of non-disclosure agreements is crucial. A non-disclosure is a legal contract between two or more parties that addresses confidential information that the parties wish to share with one another without sharing access to outside third parties. They are particularly helpful when a designer enters into a contractual relationship with a large retailer, factory/manufacturer or consultants.
Another important question a designer might have is what legal steps should they take before launching their startup business? Starting a fashion business is just like starting any business and requires thought as to form and structure. Deciding what type of entity to form varies based on the parties involved and their particular needs. Georgia’s Secretary of State Corporate Division handles all matters relating to corporate formation and registration. The following are some of the common business formation classifications:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- S Corporation
You can read more and register your corporation online at: http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/corporations
A little more on trademarks
Other than the traditional understanding of trademark law, the hashtag phenomenon invokes new questions and concerns for social media users. Social media is essentially one of the easiest ways to advertise these days. Using hashtags can help a consumer find a particular brand or designer, but it can also create some potential legal issues for users. Designers may want to stay away from using other recognizable brands or registered trademarks as a hashtag, unless they have a license to do so. Additionally, a designer or any other social media user should ask themselves the fundamental trademark question: Am I confusing the consumer? If a hashtag or social media posts suggest any sort affiliation with another trademark, those trademark owners may have grounds to issue a cease and desist order or take other legal actions. It is important to be aware of what trademarks are out there and avoid crossing into competitor’s brand territory. When in doubt, be ORIGINAL!
For more information on intellectual property you can check out:
You can learn more about RAGTRADE Atl and their services online at: http://www.ragtradeatlanta.com/.