Strengthening the textile sub-sector in terms of higher productivity, quality, and creativity calls for a holistic understanding of IPR. As industry-insiders agree on the fact that innovation, creativity, and originalities are the building blocks of an impactful fashion and textile landscape. To date, innovation in the textile and fabric industry has exerted revolution in three main sectors – clothing, home, and technical textiles. Also, the application of resistant fabric, smart cotton, activewear has made wearables more durable, comfortable, and attractive. Hence, it is of no doubt how innovations added tremendous value of the intellectual capital prevalent in the textile and fabric industry.
In the current business models, the principal source for ensuring competitive advantage is evolved around pro-consumer innovation and unique creative expressions. Given this, sectoral entrepreneurs need to explore and capitalize on their unnoticed intangible assets in a timely manner, further proofing their business rationale and relevance, enabling them to conduct analyses to determine which needs to be protected by leveraging on the intellectual property (IP) system. Evidently, little use is made of relevant national and/or regional IPR law to register and protect their unique creations. It is more prevalent among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who pay little attention to protecting their intellectual assets.
Fashion trends may come and go in a flash, some never fade, hold their appeals for long. Among them, some become classical pieces and turn into collectibles. For instance, the classic “Kelly” Bag by the French fashion house Hermès garnered critical fame in 1956 after Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco appeared carrying the bag on the cover of LIFE Magazine. Another crude example, the famous Burberry fabric still attracts new generations of consumers many decades after it was first launched.
With these glaring instances, few countries and regions, such as the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), encouraged IP protection and offer flexible procedures for innovators to protect their unique creations.
If you want your fashion unique item to get a long life span, filing an application to register it may be the best way to prevent others from using the design. Evidently, technical innovation, protected by patents, is an effective way to enable a textile entrepreneur to win over the competition. A portfolio of patents gives the signal that your company is technically superior, for example, in inventing new fabrics that do not crease, are softer, more weather-resistant, have greater elasticity, etc. Such kind of patent portfolio can help entrepreneurs attract strong partners or investors.
In light of the aforesaid discussion, a basic understanding of IP protection is a must for the sector people and, they can be sensitized from going through the points briefly discussed here:
Patent documents may contain information that can lead to further improvements or increase the quality of the output. Textile entrepreneurs may license patented technology to gain a competitive advantage or form a strategic partnership with another company for technology transfer. Patents hold information on the state-of-the-art, which can help an enterprise to decide on resource management, lead to minimum waste, save money and time.
Branding and trademarks
In this ever-evolving industry, especially the technical textile segments, competition is fierce in terms of brand creation and protection. Successful businesses always capitalize on their brands’ journey. For this to happen, they usually build rapport with their customers with unique design, quality and workmanship, and outstanding technical properties embedded in their products. In this whole journey, trademarks stand out as the most obvious means of distinguishing one company’s products from those of their competitors.
Simply, it acts as a safeguarding tool for protecting new and unique fabric designs. A copyrighted design gives the innovator a monopoly, and even if competitors or anyone bring the same design independently, s/he can his/her registered design to prevent them from selling it.
Geographical indications, collective and certification marks
Collective marks are defined as indicators or signs that distinguish valued characteristics common to the goods or services linked to several businesses using that mark, for example, their geographical origin, materials used, manufacturing techniques. This is usually a common case for the western countries where the owner may be either an association of which those enterprises are members, including a state body or a cooperative. Products originating from distinct geography may also use geographical indications (GI).
It has been designed to identify a product originating from a country or locality having a long-held reputation for its unique qualities or characteristics. Globally, several countries protect certification marks, usually provided for maintaining compliance following defined standards. For instance, the famous “WOOLMARK” tag, which certifies that the goods on which it is used are made of 100 percent wool.
Trade secrets usually range from a list of suppliers and buyers to the use of software for designing, to the logistics landscape of the value chain, to processes and secret inventions. In some fashion entities, trade secrets protect the business models that are computer-implemented and software-based.
In this competitive world, having a strong grip on the laws and systems in place, namely, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administered Hague System, Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and Madrid system, is a must. Also, it is high time we start developing a comprehensive IP strategy to allow IP consideration and IP risks to guide our business decision.
The views expressed are personal.