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Fashion firms
face many difficulties when trying to protect their innovations. Copyright and
patent protections are used on drawings and other physical representations of
designs, but they don’t protect the actual design of the garment. For example,
a graphic or a logo used on a t-shirt are protectable, but the t-shirt itself
is not. The piece of clothing produced from that sketch is only protected by
copyright if its artistic and expressive value is separable from its useful
function. There are industrial design rights and utility models that can be
used to protect a specific design, as long as they are new and not simply
re-workings of existing designs. However, they are used only in specific cases
due to very long-lasting and costly process associated. Many times it is just
better not to go on the process of patenting and be able to sell it in the
market before the style become “démodé”.

They go on
intellectual property rights, such as patents and copyrights, but this
protection is not effective. The main problem that arises from this
inefficiency is piracy, which can be segmented in two types: counterfeiting and
design piracy. Counterfeiting involves the infringement of a trademark and it
can be related to a product, on which a famous proprietary mark is applied
(trademark counterfeiting), or to a product resembling the product of a famous
company in all its characteristics, including the proprietary mark (trademark
and design counterfeiting). Design piracy involves an unauthorized reproduction
of products by property rights, without the infringement of trademark rights.
It refers to the use of a design without permission and the main intention is
that the products look very similar or exactly like one of another brand, causing
confusion to consumers. Unlike trademark counterfeiting, which is legally
punishable because of the definition of trademark protection, there are no
legislation that effectively protect against design piracy or design

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There is
evidence that the trade of counterfeited or pirated products have been
increasing internationally over the years, reaching an amount of 200 billion
dollars in 2005 (study by Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development). The amount of counterfeits varies with the industry sector, but
the total number of counterfeits sold in 2005 were between 7%  and 9% of total goods sold. Looking more
specifically into the fashion industry, the total number of fashion goods,
clothing and textiles counterfeited was more than 20% in 2005.

As showed, the
available protections are not enough to protect a fine fashion house. In order
to decelerate and combat counterfeits, some legal actions need to be
undertaken. The best way for companies to deal with this problem is by having
their own Intellectual Property Department, like Ermenegildo Zegna, or have
their own investigators, like Levi’s. This will allow them to be proactive in
checking for infringers even though it will be still difficult to detect if a
product is counterfeited or not. Levi’s is a strong example of a company that
is protecting its brand, designs, and intellectual property by using patents,
trademarks and copyrights. The company have been aggressively suing firms who
copy its copyrighted pocket stitching and other patented details.

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