Luxury fashion brand, Burberry raised many eyebrows when it burnt unsold and unwanted stock worth £28 million ($36.68 million) in the past year. The company took this step to protect its intellectual property and avoid counterfeiting of the stock that mainly include clothes and cosmetics. Apart from Burberry, H&M and Richemont have also been incinerating their unsold products at regular intervals in a bid to fight counterfeiting.
Fashion industry thrives on creativity. Constant innovation is the mantra of survival and that is why new designs and materials are being developed almost every day to keep the consumers spoiled for choices.
Indian fashion industry is also styling itself to compete with the best labels globally. They have learnt a lot from their international counterparts in the last few years. The steps taken up by the labels such as Burberry, H&M and Richemont have made the Indian fashion industry sit back and take notice of the phenomenon called counterfeiting and work towards protecting their intellectual property.
Indian fashion industry has evolved over the years with a huge amount of innovation and hard work put in by designers. They create aesthetic designs that become fashion. They experiment a lot around fabrics to make it more comfortable for the consumers. How can technology and internet not be a player in this entire scheme of things? So, we are already looking at smart clothing, ranging from self-adjusting shirts, clothes that can change colour on wearer’s instructions, auto-drying jackets, shoes that can track user’s data, clothes with inbuilt cooling and heating mechanisms, and the list goes on.
Fashion designers spend a considerable amount of effort, resources and time to arrive at these innovations. And, some of these innovations have significant commercial implications. Which also means the risk of others copying these innovations and leaving innovators in a precarious situation.
The entire process demands a stringent ecosystem where intellectual property is protected.
Fortunately, Intellectual property (IP) laws provide that much-needed protection to these innovators. These laws ensure that innovators have exclusive rights over their innovations and can stop infringers. But, to be able to effectively stop infringement, innovators have to timely get their innovations - be it the aesthetics or technologies - registered with IP granting authorities.
Good news is that obtaining IP protection in India is much easier and faster now. In some cases, it is comparable to some of the bests in the world. This is particularly relevant in a fast-moving industry like fashion, where shelf-life of products is very short. And, with the constitution of commercial courts in several parts of the country, IP disputes are being heard in a timely manner by these specialized courts.
Having seen the exponential growth of the IP ecosystem in India, there was no better time to innovate and monetize fashion than today. Therefore, you see fashion companies like Sabyasachi Couture and Biba Appeals private limited among the top five design filers in the country, significantly more than other industries.
Indian fashion industry is intellectually driven and looks ready to protect its hard work from being copied or sold in the secondary market at cheaper prices.(The author is Chair - Patents Practice, K&S Partners, intellectual property attorneys)