Fashion designers rely on patents to deter knock-offs

Design companies tending to the details of fashion shows have more to think about than skirt lengths and handbag clasps — they must decide whether to seek U.S. patent protection for their looks.

Diane von Furstenberg, famous for her wrap dresses, has a design patent on a chain mail-style bag. The popular French line Celine has one on the envelope-style handbag sported by countless fashion experts at New York Fashion Week.

This summer alone, brands including Alexander Wang, Balenciaga and Tod’s all were granted design patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on accessory designs, records show.

Because U.S. copyright and trademark laws often do not apply to new, logo-free designs, designers are applying for design patents to protect clothing and accessories from being targets for knockoffs, industry attorneys said.



Flea market operator held contributorially liable for trademark infringement by vendors?

Plaintiffs brought suit under the Lanham Act, alleging a flea market operator is liable for sales of counterfeit products at his flea market. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on liability, entered judgment on the jury’s damages verdict of $5,040,000, and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiffs in the amount of $186,666.61. Defendant argues on appeal that the Lanham Act does not provide for contributory liability for trademark infringement by third persons and that this is not an “exceptional case” warranting attorney’s fees. Because we find the district court neither erred as a matter of law nor abused its discretion, we affirm.

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