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Copyright Protection in the U.S. Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2021


Fashion design never received unequivocal defense under U.S. copyright law. Restricted ways for defense of certain types of clothing designs can be found through brand name and copyright law, though advocates of copyright protection for fashion design dispute that these restricted means are unsatisfactory. H.R. 2033, the “Design Piracy Prohibition Act,” would adjust Chapter 13 of the U.S. Copyright Act, which presently offers protection for only the designs of boat hulls. The bill would award fashion designs a three-year term of defense, grounded on registration with the U.S. Copyright Office.

It is usually executed by the United States Copyright Office. It inspects all submissions and dumps presented for mustering of unique and regeneration copyright claims to resolve their suitability for registration under the requirements of the copyright law. The Office also verifies documents related to patent ownership.

The Copyright Office lists the bibliographic explanations and the copyright facts of all works recorded. The files supported by the Copyright Office are a significant record of America’s educational and historical inheritance. Containing approximately 45 million entity cards, the Copyright Card Catalog located in the James Madison Memorial Building embraces an index to rights registrations in the United States from 1870 through 1977. Records after 1977 are held through an online database of above 16 million entries.

As a service unit of the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office is an element of the lawmaking branch of government. The Office offers copyright policy recommendation to Congress. At the demand of Congress, the Copyright Office directs and supports the Congress in the progress of national and worldwide copyright policy; drafts legislation; and organizes technological studies on copyright-related matters.

The Design Piracy Prohibition Act, is a bill imminent in the United States Senate that would expand intellectual property and copyright protection to style designs for a three years’ duration period. The bill, which will modify the Copyright Act of 1976, was presented on March 30, 2006 by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, with six co-investors from both parties, and then submitted to the U.S. House commission on the magistrates. On Thursday, August 2, 2007, in Washington, D.C. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) presented the Design Piracy Prohibition Act in the United States Senate.

The Act would extend defense to “the exterior as a whole of an piece of clothing, including its decoration,” with “clothes” intended to include “men’s, women’s, or children’s clothing, including undergarments, outerwear, gloves, footwear, and headgear;” “handbags, purses, and tote bags;” belts, and eyeglass rims. In order to obtain the three-year term of fortification, the designer would be involved to register with the U.S. Copyright Office during three months of going public with the design.

Currently, fashion may only be defended by copyright to the amount that its shape is non-practical enough to qualify as an imaginative “sculpture,” or to the amount that design, example, or image on the garments qualifies as “pictographic” or “vivid.” While existing laws against forged goods do provide some defense for designers, this is so only when the trade name is used and not when simply the design is copied under a dissimilar label. Technical proceeds to the means of textile and clothes production, as well as augments in the number of delivery channels and the accessibility of cheap labor in promising economies have enabled those who would copy these designs to do so quickly and inexpensively. Legislation objecting design piracy has already been ratified in Europe, India, and Japan.

The Copyright Act describes a “useful article” as “an article which has an inherent practical function that is not just to describe the exterior of the article or to express data. If the purpose of an article is made to be intrinsically practical, rather than completely aesthetic or informational, then the article can not be defended under U.S. copyright law. Though useful articles can not be defended in and of themselves, sure aesthetic or artistic portions of such articles can obtain defense. Designs of useful articles can be sheltered under copyright law “only if, and only to the degree that, such design includes graphic, vivid, or sculptural characteristics that can be classified disjointedly from, and are competent of existing separately of, the practical aspects of the article.” Because “illustrative, explicit, and sculptural” works are specifically qualified for copyright protection under § 102 of the Act, patent defense is allowed for features of a serviceable article that fall into this grouping and can be actually or theoretically distinguishable from the serviceable aspects of the article. The U.S. Copyright Office describes this “separability test” as a “tremendously limited” means of defense for the intends of use full articles, as courts have prohibited most engineering designs from copyright protection.

The paths for defense of fashion design obtainable through the copyright and brand name law administrations are narrow. Under the notion of trade dress, part of brand name law, a style design can be sheltered in cases where the product has increased a reputation among customers as being particular with an exact market source. Under patent law, design patents could also be a probable means for defense. Nevertheless, observers have noted the probable inadequacies of each of these advances. Section 1308 of the Act portrays the special rights of design owners under Chapter 13. The possessor of a protected design “has the restricted right to make, have made, or introduce, for sale or for use in operate, any useful article exemplifying that design; and sell or allocate for sale or for use in trade any useful article exemplifying that design.” If the design protection under Chapter 13 is advanced to include fashion designs, fashion design owners would be approved the exclusive right to place their designs on the market, and to thereby put off others from copying a design and distributing it without approval.

Designs Protected

As it has been discussed above, Chapter 13 of the Copyright Act, titled “Protection of Original Designs,” is presently limited to boat hull designs. Part 1301 of the Act offers protection to the designer or other possessor of an inventive design of a “useful article” that composes the article’s facade striking or unique to the customers. The explanation part of § 1301 first defines what makes a design original, and then edges the description of “useful article” to a vessel hull. H.R. 2033 would alter the meaning of “useful article” by adding the stipulation “or an article of apparel,” in order to protect clothing under the Act. 20 To the end of the explanation part, H.R. 2033 would add the descriptions for “fashion design,” “design, and clothing.” The definition of clothing is extensive, including articles of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, involving undergarments, and outerwear, gloves, footwear, and headgear. Moreover, the term plasters handbags, purses, tote bags, belts, and eyeglass frames, depicting these items suitable for protection.

Term of Protection

H.R. 2033 would alter the Copyright Act to fix a three-year term of defense for fashion designs. The Act presently details a 10-year term of protection for vessel hulls. advocates of the legislation emphasize that a three-year term is satisfactory as its function is to protect high end “haute couture” designs when they are first sold at high prices — a time when the designs could be susceptible to copies sold at considerably lower prices. As inclinations arise and weaken quickly, the shorter term is regarded as a satisfactory time period for the designer to have exclusive rights. The 10-year protection for vessel hulls would stay unaffected under the statement.

Application for Registration

Section 1310 of the Copyright Act consents a two-year time phase after a design has been made unrestricted during which a submission for register of the design must be filed. The part refers only to registration for boat hull design protection. H.R. 2033 would add to this segment a gap of three months for registration of a fashion design after it has been made unrestricted. The purpose of counting a restricted registration period “is to necessitate punctual register of secluded designs, which offers note to the world that design defense is claimed.” As the complete term of defense for fashion designs is considerably shorter than that for vessel hulls, a shorter gap for register of fashion designs is essential. The two-year time border for vessel hull registration would stay unaffected under the bill.


Part 1309 of the Copyright Act features what comprises violation of the design of a helpful article. Moreover to an infringement of any of the design owner’s special rights under § 1308 it is also a contravention for a supplier or dispenser who did not make or introduce an infringing article, to provoke or act in conspiracy to make or import the article. A vendor or dispenser can also be accountable if a design owner asks where the editorial came from and the seller/ distributor declines or fails to do reveal its foundation, and arranges or reorders the article with the unique design after being informed by mail that the design is shielded. Part 1309 has a slim exclusion to contravention accountability for acts lacking knowledge: it is not a contravention to make, have made, import, sell, or distribute any article exemplifying a copied design that was made without knowledge that the design was shielded. H.R. 2033 would slender this exclusion by changing the language so that it would comprise violation if one did not have actual knowledge but had realistic positions to know that design protection is asserted. Moreover, the bill would add defense for images of fashion intends as well as for the designs themselves, stating that an article is violating if its design was copied from a secluded design “or from a picture thereof”. The bill would also amend paragraph 1309 to relate the doctrines of secondary responsibility to actions for contravention of a design of a helpful article. Making so would codify the principles of inferior legal responsibility, which are not currently found in the Copyright Act, but which subsist in case law. Finally, the bill would change revival for violation from the current quantities of $50,000 or $1 per copy, to $250,000 or $5 per copy.


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