AI: Friend or Foe - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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AI: Friend or Foe

AI: Friend or Foe

Technology is changing faster than ever and artificial intelligence (AI) has already begun paving its way in the fashion industry.1 AI is computer technology designed to mirror human cognitive abilities to perform tasks that ordinarily require human intelligence, like getting dressed in the morning.2 Companies, like Zara and H&M, have been developing partnerships with technology companies that use AI to predict consumer behavior in order to keep up with the fashion industry’s fast-paced culture.3 Consumers have also been using AI for their own benefit.4 For example, Screenshop is an app that allows users to take a photo of a look that they like in order to find similar products at various price points through the app.5 Furthermore, Alibaba and Guess piloted Fashion AI, a system where “smart” mirrors analyze garments customers pick up in the store and make suggestions based on their clothing choices.6

While there are those that believe AI is changing the fashion industry for the worse, 7 AI has the ability to correct many legal issues in the industry.8 It has the ability to verify a product’s authenticity by detecting counterfeits.9 DataWeave has already launched Counterfeit Products Detection solution that helps designers combat copycats.10 It had been relatively easy to sell used and unused items as counterfeit items as authentic designs because of the open marketplace model of companies like Amazon and Ebay.11 DataWeave’s Counterfeit Products Detection solution, however, accurately detects possible counterfeits by catching discrepancies in the catalog images and text, “categorizing the merchant as authorized or unauthorized, and analyzing product reviews.”12 DataWeave’s system provides a platform for brands to work with online retailers to remove counterfeit goods and punish the merchant.13

Using AI is a way for designers and fashion houses to outsmart street-savvy counterfeiters.14 In 2016, Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce group,15 formed an alliance with international brands, including the luxury brand Louis Vuitton.16 This alliance was called the Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance.17 Alibaba went further than DataWeave by having the ability to reveal manufacturing sources via fund tracing.18

AI is not just an idea; it is producing real results.  In three months, Alibaba, with the help of the Chinese law enforcement and AI, was able to help arrest 332 suspects and seize fake goods valued at over $207 million.19 The battle against copycats did not only target online sellers, but also brick-and-mortar stores.20 By the end of 2016, Alibaba contributed to the closing of 180,000 third-party seller stores.21 Alibaba also took legal action against intellectual property infringers.22 In January of 2017, Alibaba sued two merchants for selling fake Swarovski watches.23 The information provided by Alibaba’s AI technology prompted the seizure of 125 fake Swarovski watches and two fake Swarovski seals.24 The total value of these goods amounted to over $28 million;25 money that could have been going to the brands that have put in the time and effort into designing, marketing, selling and protecting their products.26

While there appears to be a focus on what AI can do for brands that have established themselves, it is important to note what AI can do for up-and-coming designers.27 TrademarkVision, a startup that discovered how to replace old-fashion keyword searching with deep learning matches, offers new designers a way to quickly and painlessly search their logos and trademarks to avoid infringing upon a mark or logo that already exists.28 TrademarkVision’s program also allows for designers to search color combinations and 3D designs.29 This new 3D design feature will help many young fashion professionals identify any design patents that closely match their own.30 This preventative measure has the potential to relieve a lot of stress from young designers that fear getting into trouble for accidentally infringing upon an existing trademark, or as Campbell-Dollaghan described it, “legal insurance for branding.”31

The contributions that AI brings to the fashion industry do not end with fighting intellectual property infringers. AI is also known to help expand designers’ creative discovery, reduce time-consuming processes for design teams, provide consumers with wider variety of designs they truly want, and much more on an international scale.32 As AI continues to grow, becomes more reliable and more widely adopted by brands, losses from counterfeiting could be greatly reduced.33While using AI is a start to fighting “phonies,” DataWeave has expressed that there is a long road ahead of us before the nuances that are associated with humans.34


  1. Jeffrey Greene & Anne Marie Longobucco, Is Artificial Intelligence the Newest Trend in Fashion?, N.Y. Law J. (Aug. 24, 2018, 03:40PM), https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2018/08/24/artificial-intelligence-the-newest-trend-in-fashion/. [https://perma.cc/E9XE-ELP8]

  2. Id.

  3. Sonya Dowsett, Zara Looks to Technology to Keep Up With Faster Fashion, Reuters (June 15, 2018, 02:03AM), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-inditex-technology-focus/zara-looks-to-technology-to-keep-up-with-faster-fashion-idUSKBN1JB0HG. [https://perma.cc/S5JQ-JFG8]

  4. Shachar Shamir, How Technology is Changing the Fashion Industry, The Next Web (Aug. 14, 2018), https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2018/08/14/how-technology-is-changing-the-fashion-industry/. [https://perma.cc/GN4F-RCFT]

  5. Id.

  6. Greene & Longobucco, supra note 1.

  7. Kyle Chayka, Style Is An Algorithm: No One is Original, Not Even You, Racked (Apr. 17, 2018), https://www.racked.com/2018/4/17/17219166/fashion-style-algorithm-amazon-echo-look. [https://perma.cc/W54H-8F46]

  8. Greene & Longobucco, supra note 1.

  9. See id.

  10. Chris Brosey, DataWeave Offers Counterfeit Solution to Fight Phonies, Loyalty 360 (May 23, 2018), https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/daily-news/dataweave-offers-counterfeit-solution-to-fight-pho. [https://perma.cc/CH6Y-8PB4]

  11. Id.

  12. See id.

  13. Id.

  14. Frederick Mostert, Intellectual Property: Taking the Fight to the Fakers, Fin. Times (Nov. 15, 2017), https://www.ft.com/content/a257dbc8-af3c-11e7-8076-0a4bdda92ca2. [https://perma.cc/R5UL-FX2S]

  15. Id.

  16. Tom Brennan, Alibaba Launches ‘Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Aliance’, Alizila (Jan. 16, 2017), https://www.alizila.com/alibaba-launches-big-data-anti-counterfeiting-alliance/. [https://perma.cc/5USP-75D9]

  17. Mostert, supra note 14.

  18. Id.

  19. Brennan, supra note 16.

  20. See id.

  21. Id.

  22. See id.

  23. Id.

  24. See id.

  25. See id.

  26. Id.

  27. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Design Plagarism Is A Serious Problem – This Startup’s AI Could Help, Fast Company (Jan. 09, 2017), https://www.fastcompany.com/3067021/design-plagiarism-is-a-serious-problem-this-startups-ai-could-help. [https://perma.cc/TPQ8-Q8SU]

  28. Id.

  29. See id.

  30. Id.

  31. Id.

  32. Kul Bhushan, How Artificial Intelligence is Empowering Designers in India, Livemint (Aug. 14, 2018), https://www.livemint.com/AI/tdxtlGYRklB16h8rWj7A2H/How-Artificial-Intelligence-is-empowering-designers-in-India.html. [https://perma.cc/4SYZ-EUL3]

  33. Greene & Longobucco, supra note 1.

  34. Brosey, supra note 5.

Caen Dennis

Caen Dennis is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. Caen is currently the 2L Director for the Fashion Law Institute's Pop-Up Clinic at Fordham (http://fashionlawinstitute.com) and serves as Treasurer for both the Fashion Law Society and the Fordham Art Law Society.