Loewe Has a New Patent-Protected "it" Bag in the Making

There are numerous ways to predict what any given brand’s next “it” bag might be. Looking to the new designs shown most heavily on the runway provides an indication, as does the frequency with which a certain bag is gifted to celebrities and/or lent to magazines for inclusion in editorials. One can also look to the designs that brands are choosing to spend resources on to protect – legally, either by way of a trade dress registration or design patent protection. With this in mind, it seems Loewe has a new “it” bag on the horizon.

The Spanish brand, which is owned by Louis Vuitton, Celine, and Givenchy parent, LVMH, and helmed by Jonathan Anderson, has filed for and received design patent protection for one of its Spring/Summer 2015 runway bags: the Nappa clutch. The wedge shaped bag, with its bow accent, has been awarded design patent protection by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this month. This means that for the next fourteen years, Loewe has the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling a product that resembles the patented product (the Nappa clutch, in this case) so closely that an "ordinary observer" might purchase the infringing article, thinking it was the patented product.

Joining the likes of the Puzzle and Shopper bags, which have been best sellers for the brand, the Nappa bag is the first of Anderson’s to receive design patent protection. Aside from the legal rights that Loewe garners as a result of the patent, its existence is significant as it means that the brand considers this bag to be one that will be heavily sold, heavily copied, or both.

A bit of background on design patents in fashion: Compared to trademark and copyright protection, which tend to cost less than $500 to register and acquire, patents are costly; recent reports suggest a patent (and the corresponding legal fees) will cost you upwards of $10,000. The turnaround time – or the pendency, the term that refers to the time taken between the filing and issuance of the design patent – tends to be about 18 months, with some taking quite a bit longer. While a year and a half is not a terribly long time, it is often too long to wait for most garments and accessories. Given the very seasonal and cyclical nature of the fashion industry, oftentimes a design will be “so last season,” so to speak, by the time a design patent is issued, thereby making it less likely that the design will be copied.

As such, we tend to see such protection sought only by brands for their staple items, and only by brands with thousands of dollars to spend on each individual patent. While design patents generally tend to be far less commonly utilized in the fashion industry than other forms of intellectual property, namely, copyright and trademarks, they make sense for brands with significant accessory businesses, such as Bottega Veneta or Louis Vuitton. These brands not only have the resources to spend to protect their designs, but many of their accessories – whether it is a shoe or a purse – also tend to become brand staples, making a design patent a worthwhile investment. This is obviously distinct from a very season-specific top or dress, for instance, which houses tend to show for a single collection and never re-introduce in any significant manner.

With this in mind, it seems safe to say that there is a new “it” bag in the making.