Are Fashion Designs Protected By Intellectual Property Laws?


A lot of black fashion designers complain that they spend countless hours trying to perfect and sew a design just to see a copy on popular sites like Fashion Nova. Even Kim K complained about her outfits being replicated by the same brand. Versace took Fashion Nova to court for replicating the Jlo jungle dress but the two companies settled out of court.

Can fashion designs be copyrighted?

Fashion designs can mean a couple of things. A fashion design could mean a sketch, colour, like Louboutin’s renowned red-bottom shoes, type of fabric or how the outfit is cut or the patterns on the cloth.

Copyright law in Nigeria protects literary work, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph works and sound recordings.

Even though copyright does not protect colour, it protects sketches to an extent, that is the original.

Your sketch cannot be copied, shared, or shown in public without your permission. However, original expressions, not ideas, are protected by copyright. Consequently, it does not necessarily stop others from manufacturing clothes that resemble your sketch because the protection is in the drawing itself, not the underlying idea.

When it comes to graphic design or textile designs (like the Versace prints), those are definitely protected under copyright because they fall under artistic words. However, words cannot be copyrighted.

The way a fabric is cut is not protected under copyright law. Since Nigeria doesn’t have a lot of authority on this point, we would be using some persuasive authority from the United States. In Star Athletica v Varsity brands the Supreme Court held that copyright affords “no right to prohibit any person from manufacturing [clothing] of identical shape, cut, and dimensions.”

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