Fibre2Fashion – Designs & Patents

How can design patent searches help in boosting innovation in the fashion industry?

The word ‘fashion’ holds a different meaning for everyone. For some, it means uniqueness, art, creativity, culture and expression, and for others it represents a way of life. The fashion industry invests its heart and soul in fostering innovations, seeding every possible way to create unique, innovative and aesthetically appealing designs. These designs give a new life and appeal to a variety of products around us, which include apparel, handbags, watches, jewellery or anything we would love to wear on us. These new designs not only give us a sense of pride and confidence but also make us feel special.

Unfortunately, designers are under constant pressure to create new fashion lines in a competitive environment that requires continuous innovation. There is also the constant fear of losing innovations to grey market cartels. In the age of the Internet, plagiarism in the fashion industry has become a bane making it difficult for creators and designers to protect uniqueness and creativity.Advertisement

Designers, therefore, need to act smarter and gauge how things are shaping up in the market in real-time, and those who understand intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the value of design patent protection, take advantage of the laws to gain upper hand in the market.

While analysing the patent portfolios of brands like Ralph Lauren, Sabyasachi, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, we found that their creativity was well protected by design patents. This means using a design patent search, one can get access to the newly created and protected designs that can help in predicting upcoming changes in products or fashion trends.

The big question

After realising the importance of well-protected patents, the big question that arises is – how can you make use of the design patents and the patent search services to boost innovation? The answer to this can be explored among the key offerings exhibited by the design patent search services, as mentioned below:

1. Identifying prior arts before applying for a patent

Once a design is ready, it is crucial to protect it. That’s where the design patent search service known as novelty/patentability search comes into play. During such a search, the existing design patents are thoroughly checked and evaluated by patent analysts by using a professional patent database.

During the process, thousands of patents filed by others are thoroughly checked to ensure the non-existence of an identical design that can challenge the novelty of the new design. The outcome of the patentability search is presented in an easy-to-understand format. This report, in which identified results are categorised as per the relevancy criteria, highlights the degree of similarity between the identified design and the new design.

Based on the outcome of the patentability search, the respective designer (using the legal opinion of the respective patent attorney) can decide the fate of the new design.

2) Monitoring protected designs

Let’s understand this point with the help of an example. Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has not yet launched a watch in the market. However, its design has been spotted on German Patent and Trademark Office. This means, closely monitoring the required designs on patent databases may help you to identify the upcoming designs of any company, and plan a new innovative design before the launch of the competitor’s design.

News shot:

The design patent monitoring gives you ample time to strategise and act before the competitor’s product hits the market. Either you can choose to wait and watch with the prototype in your hand (so that the market fate of the competitor’s new product line can be accessed) or you can directly enter the market before the competitor’s product launch if the market forces seem to be in your favour.

3) Freedom to Operate (FTO) Search – before launching a product

When you decide to enter a new market with a novel design and do not want to engage in unnecessary litigations with the local players of that market, it is better to check protected designs in the new market. This gives you the freedom to operate and provides you with an opportunity to get a license from other players. Furthermore, it helps you to avoid infringement or payment of the hefty licensing fee by opting to design around your product.

4) Monitoring infringement

There might be chances that someone launches a product with similar design in your protected markets, perhaps with some minor modifications. Periodic monitoring of such infringing products, helps in identifying the threat to your product reputation and avoid unpredicted losses, eventually taking necessary legal action to stop these competitors to launch products or even operate in the protected markets. 

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