During SOURCING at MAGIC in February, Squire Sanders presented a panel session titled “Faking It Is Not in Fashion: The Impact of Counterfeiting Fashion,” providing tips for companies on how to protect their brands, and why it’s so important.
David Spooner, the United States Fashion Industry Association’s (USFIA) Washington Counsel with Squire Sanders, led the discussion featuring Nick Chan, a Partner with Squire Sanders in Hong Kong, and Deborah Greaves, the CEO of Label Law PLC and the former general counsel for True Religion, which dealt with its own IP protection issues in Asia.
Any fashionista and fashionisto knows that fake fashion is not in fashion. Yet, fakes continue to make their way into the market in surprising amounts. It’s not only important for brands to protect their intellectual property for their bottom lines; fakes also contribute to poor working conditions and even sweatshops, illegal money laundering, and even financing of terrorism. As Greaves said, fakes are not a great deal—they are actually tainted products.
The speakers agreed that the key to combating fakes is to be proactive—in most countries, you can’t enforce intellectual property rights unless you’ve got protection in the form of a copyright or trademark.
Whether you’re an established brand with global operations or just starting out making your product in your garage, there are some things you can do to protect your brand. Greaves said you should research things like what to register, such as a word or logo, and importantly, where to register. Even if your brand is not international yet, it’s important to think ahead 3-5 years—and consider where you manufacture and distribute, or plan to. Ultimately, your best bet is to be proactive, rather than discover you need to be reactive to the theft of your brand.
Chan then dove into the details about protecting your brand in China, which, as the top producer of apparel products, is the “factory of the world.” In China, copying is considered the highest form of flattery, so fashion brands need to be especially careful. Chan provided a detailed presentation, available for download here.
Of particular note, Chan provided some insight on why it’s important to register your brand in China, and how you can do so. While China maintains the first-to-file system—unlike in the United States, where it’s the first to use in commerce—the country recently modernized its intellectual property laws to give brands better protection. As of May 1, China will process registrations within nine months. While you don’t necessarily need to register your brand in China for your copyright to be enforced, due to China recognizing “well-known marks,” it definitely makes it easier and is recommended especially if you want to sell there.
When registering, it’s critical to register both the Chinese character name and the simplified Chinese name. Be sure that your mark has distinctive features, and is not something that’s offensive in China. And be prepared to show that you’re registering the mark in good faith—and not to harm another’s brand.
As fashion brands and retailers increasingly globalize, the number of potential issues increase, too. But, like all aspects of your business, if you’re proactive, you’ll find success.
For more on SOURCING at MAGIC, see our OFF THE CUFF articles from February 28th!