Anthony Vaccarello is making it very difficult for retailers – fast fashion or otherwise – to copy at least one key element of his Spring/Summer 2017 collection. And by “difficult,” I mean illegal. Not only was Vaccarello seemingly bringing the Yves back to YSL by incorporating the house’s YSL logo into things, such as the heels of a pair of pumps, or the earrings that adorned models’ ears, he is ensuring that copycats beware.
Unlike the copying of an un-branded shoe – which might otherwise be perfectly legal (although it is worth noting that YSL has gone to great lengths in recent years to protect even its un-branded designs) – copying a pump bearing the YSL logo is not just illegal, it amounts to counterfeiting. As we have told you in the past, the majority of garments and accessories are not protected – at least not by copyright law in the U.S. However, as soon as the unauthorized use of a brand name or logo is employed – such as the addition of the YSL logo to the pumps, in the case at hand – the game changes and brands may be protected against copycats by the otherwise inapplicable doctrines of trademark law.
Note: trade dress protection is applicable even when a trademark protected name or logo is not at play (as trade dress protects the appearance of a design). However, such protection only applies when the design at issue is well known enough to serve as an identifier of source. So, when the design is an Hermès Birkin bag, for instance.
The key aspect of YSL’s Spring/Summer 2017 runway shoes is not the pointy toe or the patent leather or the thin ankle strap; it is the logoed heel. As such, this is the element that copyists will most certainly want to recreate to tempt shoppers, making trademark law an enormous asset for YSL in a hypothetical case of copying. While Alibaba sellers will likely be all over this one in no time, more legitimate retailers – aka ones that are easier to track down and sue – such as Nasty Gal will be forced to take “inspiration” from this design as opposed to merely recreating it.