The Trademark Considerations Underlying Fashion’s Recent Logomania
While labels and logos have always held significant meaning within the fashion industry, it seems they have taken on a new level of importance in light of the so-called “logomania” trend that has emerged in recent years. Designer brands such as Gucci, Fendi, and Balenciaga have all leaned heavily into this trend, producing luxury handbags, sweatshirts, hats, and more with their logos prominently displayed on the outside. While some consider the industry’s obsession with logos a critique on consumer culture,1 others see it as a form of brand dilution driven by changing consumption patterns.2 What if, however, something other than style or marketing has been driving this trend?
Historically, there have been limited avenues of legal protection for fashion design in the United States.3 For instance, copyright law does not protect useful articles such as clothing, and design patents tend to be expensive, time-consuming, and impractical.4 As a result, designers have had to find other ways of protecting their creations. One such avenue that has proven successful, especially for established designers, is trademark law.5 While the underlying design of a dress or handbag might fall outside the scope of U.S. intellectual property protections, virtually all garments incorporate a trademark in some form, whether that is on an interior label or exterior logo.6 The ease of trademark registration also creates an interesting incentive for fashion houses: the more easily visible the logo appears, the greater protection the law grants for the item.7 Thus, it is possible that designers who have taken to stamping their logo on everything are in fact being influenced by legal concerns.8
Though trademark law offers a competitive advantage to established companies with well-known logos, young designers who have not yet achieved significant brand recognition still struggle when it comes to combating piracy. Interestingly enough, however, a few contemporary streetwear brands, such as Supreme, Palace, and Telfar, have found quick success by focusing their fashion debuts on their now-iconic logos and motifs.9.
Relatedly, some brands have taken to applying trademark law beyond their actual logos. One such example is the cult favorite beauty brand Glossier. With several trademarks already under its belt, Glossier recently filed an additional application for the millennial pink Ziplock pouch that comes with every purchase.10 Just as Glossier’s stylized “G” logo indicates the source of its products, the notable pouch has become a symbol for the brand, featured on its website, marketing emails, social media posts, and subways ads.11. While Glossier might not be as concerned with piracy as high-end or streetwear designers, its trademark pursuits demonstrate how trademark law incentivizes brands to adopt a symbol by which their products may be distinguished from that of others.12.
While surely there are cultural and sociological reasons driving the logo frenzy, it is important to recognize that logos are just as much a visual signifier of status and consumer values as they are a utilitarian device to protect originality and ward off counterfeits.13
Kara Kia, Logomania Is More Than the Next Big Print Trend – It’s Also a Critique on Consumer Culture, POPSUGAR (Aug. 22, 2019), https://www.popsugar.com/fashion/How-Logomania-Trend-Is-Critique-on-Consumer-Culture-46529146 [https://perma.cc/H5KK-AWDP].↩
Eugene Rabkin, How Luxury Fashion Was Reduced To Logomania, Highsnobiety (Aug. 27, 2019), https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/luxury-fashion-appeal-lost-today/ [https://perma.cc/S8XE-78XB].↩
Susan Scafidi, Intellectual Property and Fashion Design, in 1 Intell. Prop. & Info. Wealth 115, 121 (Peter K. Yu ed., 2006).↩
There’s More to the Resurgence of Logomania than Meets the Eye, The Fashion Law (Jan. 19, 2018), https://www.thefashionlaw.com/theres-more-to-the-resurgence-of-logomania-than-meets-the-eye/ [https://perma.cc/YFC4-H7YK].↩
See generally Charles E. Colman, An Overview of Intellectual Property Issues Relevant to the Fashion Industry, in Navigating Fashion Law: Leading Lawyers On Exploring The Trends, Cases, And Strategies Of Fashion Law *52 (Jan. 1,2012), Westlaw 2012 WL 167352.↩
Scafidi, supra note 3, at 121.↩
Ruth La Ferla, What Gives the Logo Its Legs, N.Y. Times (Nov. 7, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/fashion/logos-gucci-fendi-supreme.html [https://perma.cc/734X-WCGJ].↩
Glossier Has a Brand New Trademark Registration for its Pink Pouch, The Fashion Law (Aug. 25, 2020), https://www.thefashionlaw.com/glossier-has-a-brand-new-trademark-registration-for-its-pink-pouch/ [https://perma.cc/5XEX-HLYF].↩
There’s More to the Resurgence of Logomania than Meets the Eye, supra note 4.↩