Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute
As the models were preparing to hit the runway at New York Fashion Week’s new Lincoln Center location last month, the fashion industry welcomed the world’s first center dedicated to the emerging field of fashion law directly across 62nd Street at Fordham Law. The Fashion Law Institute, headed by fashion law pioneer Susan Scafidi, will provide students with the opportunity to prepare for careers in fashion law, while also serving as a resource for designers and the fashion community.
Iconic fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg who, together with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, donated $100,000 to the Institute, sees the program as particularly helpful in protecting young designers as they face legal challenges, including unique intellectual property questions. While prints, jewelry, and distinctive elements in fashion can be protected by copyright, there is currently no protection under American law for original fashion designs. However, a bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) in August would provide limited intellectual property protection for unique designs.
The bill –the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act – would cover all new and original fashion designs for a three-year period from the time the item is seen in public, but only deliberate copies that are substantially identical to protected designs would be prohibited by law. Knockoffs that are difficult to distinguish from the original would be prohibited, but designs that are merely inspired by prior designs would remain legal. Although the bar will be exceptionally high to determine what qualifies as a unique, copyright-protected design, designers view the proposed bill as an important moment for the fashion industry. Both the legislation, expected to be passed this fall, and the creation of Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute are important developments in the American fashion industry as it seeks to promote creativity and protect innovative designers.