The Schumer Bill: Fashion Friend or Foe?

Left: Diane Von Furstenburg [Spring 20089], Right: Mercy [Spring 2008]. Photo Source

On August 5th, Senator Charles E. Schumer proposed the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (IDPPPA) which aims to protect American fashion designers from uncanny knock-offs for three years. In an industry driven by trends, which quite often lead to countless copies of original designs, this plucky little bill is aimed to specifically protect innovative and original garments and is actually expected to pass this fall.

The IDPPPA places the onus on fashion designers to prove in a legal action that they created “a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs,” worthy of being protected. This presumes of course that the designer becomes aware of the copied apparel, shoes, sunglasses etc. and pursues legal action, instead of relying on a sort of fashion police. The Bill has the support of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

My favourite case of this kind of alleged design theft in Canada was the affair of the bedroom jacket, originally designed by boutique Canadian label Mercy, and then substantively copied by the Diane Von Furtsenburg label [both pictured above]. Nathalie Atkinson of the National Post scooped this story last year after spotting the Mercy jacket in Lucky and the DvF in Teen Vogue. From the shredded silk sash bow, to the inner drawstring and pin tucks on the sleeve, DvF’s jacket was identical to Mercy’s. A bill like this might have made DvF pay up, jurisdiction issues considered.
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