Barbara Kolsun, executive vice president at renowned shoe company Stuart Weitzman and NYU adjunct professor on fashion law, said legal issues related to the industry vary from case to case. In recent years, there has been the current hotbed case of Christian Louboutin’s long battle over its unmistakable red-bottom shoes and Gucci suing Guess over use of the iconic interlocking ‘G’ logo. With regard to what can and cannot be protected, Kolsun explained the distinction in U.S. law, stating the different forms of law and patent.
“In the U.S. we basically have copyright law, trademark law and design patents,” Kolsun said. Kolsun said the design of a garment is unprotectable, and noted that because of the numerous global companies in the industry, protection is dealt with based on where that company is working. She also mentioned the controversy over whether the fashion industry would benefit from a law protecting design. “My opinion on that is that if we’re going to do it, it’s probably best to have a scheme — like Europe has — to protect designs rather than lobbing it onto the copyright law,” Kolsun said. “That is certainly something that’s been in discussion for a really long time.”