With emphasis on broad ranging topics covering multiple jurisdictions and engaging various stakeholders, the INTA Brands and Fashion conference was a two-day advanced-level conference in March held in New York, one of the world’s top fashion destinations.
As part of their role in the intellectual property field, the International Trademark Association (INTA) is always aiming to build bridges between the global trademark community and organizations and individuals directly affected by IP. Certainly, this was the main goal of this Conference, as INTA assembled a program of emerging and relevant issues in the fashion industry and brand-focused companies, which featured an A-List of guest speakers, ranging from IP lawyers, in-house attorneys from big fashion houses, academics, Customs and Borders officers, digital influencers, emerging technologies and advertising opportunities with social media, looking at the FTC guidelines and enforcement with regard to retailers and brand owners for the use of paid influencers and sponsored paid ads.
THE EVOLVING DISCUSSIONS
As the Keynote Speaker, Mercedes Castillo (former creative director of accessories at Tory Burch) kicked off the event and already tackled all the relevant issues that would be thoroughly discussed through the Conference. Recently launching her eponymous brand, Castillo explored how she developed her debut luxury collection, considering the consumers of today, seen by her as global, educated and engaged.
Thus, targeting to present a distinctive brand that would attract both consumers and retail buyer interest was deemed as sine quo non condition to her commercial success. She also addressed the special attention given to her branding and packaging, considered important to make the brand unique and easily identifiable, as well as playful and, most importantly, aspirational.
All these attributes are of extreme importance to IP, as the creative designer’s inspirations and the attributes translated in the brand defines all commercial chain and the suitable forms of legal protection to be sought. Thus, it becomes mandatory for the legal practitioner in this field to deeply understand the creative and inspirational steps behind each creation, in order to seek the effective protection.
Other panels in the Conference clearly showed that IP fits exactly in the middle of the fashion companies’ strategy, ensuring that the marks – and other properties that might come with the apparel being sold – are duly protected. Once identified and ideally, protected, these IPRs might constitute the main part of the fashion companies’ assets, being then object of licensing activities and agreements.
BRANDS AT THE BORDER
Having an organized IPRs portfolio is also relevant for enforcement purposes, tackling misuses. Officials from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (a specialized unit of the City of London Police) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offered their perspective, stressing that officials have hundreds of different laws to enforce (in U.S. alone, more than 800), and IP is not always in their minds. Fashion companies must then engage in a non-stop work of cooperation with the law enforcement and government agencies, providing them with all the necessary training and essential manuals, enabling the officials to successfully implement their protection programs and bringing IP to the top of their minds.
Also, as the fashion brands go global, the infringement threats are a constantly evolving issue, and from the brand enforcement standpoint, drawing a strategy with worldwide coverage is necessary. Many jurisdictions still offer an uncertain legal environment, and it is always important to rely on local IP attorneys that can prosecute and enforce effectively the IPRs, within the particularities of each country’s system.
LONG-TERM IPRs FOR LONG-STANDING BRANDS
As they strive to reach commercial success and the iconic status, fashion houses aim to develop solid brands in the ever-changing environment of fashion. In the case of traditional houses, there is the additional attempt to strike a balance between their heritage and the modern approach needed.
In this sense, in order to preserve its key equity elements, brand owners have to define a strategy with a truly integrated experience (with the brand protection team, business lines and consumers) and innovate, creating effective tools of protection (such as technological tags to be affixed in the garments).
Intellectual property is certainly a main part of these plans, as long term protections are needed for long-standing brands and unavoidably the technology is shaping the future of fashion. So, it is mandatory for fashion companies to evolve and adapt not only to the new trends, but also to the existing systems of protection, each and every day.
Advogado Sênior do Mansur Murad Advogados (São Paulo, Brasil)
Mestre em Propriedade Intelectual e Direito da Moda pela Queen Mary, University of London. Editor-chefe do portal MORE Brands and Fashion