Fashion Raises Game in Growing Battle
Women’s Wear Daily, September 9, 2010
With their creations splashed around the world via the Internet within seconds after the end of their shows, intellectual property violations, trademark infringement and counterfeiting are more rampant than ever. The crisis has raised the industry’s legal challenges to the forefront and has served as a call to action.
Among the solutions are the opening of the world’s first Fashion Law Institute at New York’s Fordham Law School and the introduction in Congress of the Innovation Design and Piracy Prevention Act, a bill that would extend copyright protection to fashion designs.
Diane von Furstenberg, designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, on Wednesday banged a gavel tied with a pink ribbon to ceremonially open the institute. “As a designer who has been around for a long, long time, I can tell you, a lawyer who understands fashion is a very important thing,” von Furstenberg said. “As a designer, you have to protect yourself in so many ways…there are so many reasons a designer needs a lawyer and, for a young designer, it’s even more important.”
The importance of educating designers and training lawyers in matters concerning fashion and retail played a major role for von Furstenberg, who matched the CFDA’s donation to the institute of $50,000. With $100,000 already in the bank, the institute hopes to raise $1 million in its first year.
Founded by Fordham Law professor Susan Scafidi, the institute will provide a curriculum that will deal with legal and related issues facing designers, such as intellectual property and trademark rights, counterfeiting, copyright, finance, international trade and government regulation—even consumer culture and civil rights. Classes will not only be open to law students but also to emerging designers. Additionally, the institute will offer public seminars and programs on issues of interest to members of the legal and fashion communities, said Scafidi, who will serve as the institute’s academic director.
“The CFDA’s invaluable support and advice will help ensure that the Fashion Law Institute is able to provide a resource and research platform to law students, fashion houses and especially emerging designers, who may not be able to afford the legal counsel that is so important to developing a business,” Scafidi said, noting the fortuity of the school’s Manhattan location, “literally right across the street from Lincoln Center, the new home of fashion week.”