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Schumer's Legislation Protects Unique Fashion Designs From Being Copied And Turned Into Knock-Offs; There Are Over 800 Fashion Companies in NYC Alone, Yet Local Industry At Disadvantage Because of Less Stringent Copyright Laws

Schumer: This Legislation Will Go A Long Way in Protecting Juggernaut New York Industry and Essential NY Jobs

Today, United States Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced legislation that would protect the New York and United States fashion industry from copy-cat knock offs. The legislation provides a very limited intellectual property protection to the most original fashion designs – those that are extremely unique and extraordinary – and do so in a way that limits unwarranted litigation. The bill is a product of an intensive year of negotiations with Senator Schumer and the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the American Apparel and Footwear Association. The bill has bipartisan support.


“The New York fashion industry is an essential part of New York City’s economy, employing nearly 200,000 people at over 800 fashion companies, but unfortunately our local industry is at a severe disadvantage because greater protections are afforded to designs made overseas than in New York or the United States. Unregulated, high-end knock offs are hurting the integrity of this industry,” Schumer said. “My legislation will level the playing field with European designers and protect an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and pumps billions of dollars into the local economy.”


The fashion industry plays a vital role in the New York economy.  The fashion industry employs nearly 200,000 people in New York City alone and generates $9.6 billion in total wages, and tax revenues of $811 million.  Over 800 fashion companies are headquartered in New York City, more than double the number in Paris, yet French designers have greater copyright protections.  Twice a year, Fashion Week in New York generates $466 million in direct visitor spending, leading to $782 million in total economic impact per year. 


But these jobs and this revenue for New York are currently in jeopardy because the United States does not provide any protection for fashion designers against having their designs pilfered.  If Congress does not act, the U.S. risks losing these jobs to Europe or to Japan, which offer more stringent intellectual property protections to shield the industry from design thieves.


“After a year of negotiations, I am pleased we were able to find agreement on the issue of fashion design piracy,” said AAFA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke.  “The AAFA would like to extend gratitude to Senator Schumer for his diligent work bringing all the stakeholders to the table to reach a practical solution.  As we move forward, AAFA will continue to seek the strongest trademark and copyright protections for the U.S. apparel and footwear industry competing in the global market for the benefit of their brand reputations, employees, and consumers.”


"When the CFDA originally launched the campaign to bring intellectual property protection to fashion design, our goal was to give a new generation of American designers the recognition and support they need to grow their businesses into household names” said CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb.  “We have worked closely, under the leadership of Senator Schumer, with the AAFA and the industry to create a law that will provide long overdue protection our industry deserves. America is the world fashion leader, and yet it is basically the only industrialized country that does not provide protection for fashion design.  This bill is good news in that it promotes creativity and thus strengthens the fashion industry’s significant contribution to a healthy and working economy.”


The Schumer legislation balances the need to protect jobs and innovation in the fashion industry and the need to keep clothing cheap, affordable, and accessible.  Under the Schumer legislation, only truly unique fashion designs are protected. The standard for protection under the bill is that the design must be the result of the designer’s own creative endeavor and must provide a unique, distinguishable, non-trivial and non-utilitarian variation over prior designs for similar types of articles. Colors and patterns cannot be used in determining whether a design is protected. Furthermore, the protection begins when a design is made public and protection lasts for only a period of three years.


In order for a design to count as infringing on a protected design, the copy must be substantially identical, meaning it is so similar in appearance that it is likely to be mistaken for the protected design. Everything that has been created prior to the enactment of the bill is considered public domain and cannot be protected.  Finally, the bill puts a high burden on plaintiffs to bring a case to court, in order to limit the costs of frivolous litigation.


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