After adding four new design patents to its roster late last month, Louis Vuitton has been awarded two additional patents in connection with more of its recent handbag designs. You may recall that the Paris-based house was recently granted patent protection for its GO-14 and Malletage GO-14, LockMe, and Twist bags, all of which were created by Darren Spaziani, an accessories designer, who joined the Paris-based house during Marc Jacobs’ tenure. As of early this month. Louis Vuitton can also claim federal protection for the “ornamental design” of its Petite Malle (pictured above) and Doc BB Speedy bags (pictured below).
According to Louis Vuitton’s patent applications for the Petite Malle and the Doc BB Speedy, which were respectively filed in March 2015 and October 2014, the designs were created by Louis Vuitton leather goods designers, Florian Fröhlich (in the case of the Petite Malle) and Emma Gale (the Doc BB Speedy). The patents entitle Louis Vuitton to roughly 14 years of exclusive use of the designs, thereby permitting the house to bring legal action against copyists, which will likely prove especially fruitful in connection with the Petite Malle.
Just last month, Women’s Wear Daily’s Bridget Foley took on the topic in her column by way of an article entitled, The Case of the Truncated Trunk, in which she looked to the copying of “it” bags, or more precisely, one “it” bag, in particular. She is referring, of course, to Louis Vuitton’s Petite Malle bags, which have been popularized under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, who joined the famed house in 2013, and which have been copied by an array of brands, including but not limited to Max Azria, Sam Edelman, and Nasty Gal, since. Thanks to the house’s newly granted patents (a rather strong form of legal protection), we very well may be seeing far fewer copycat versions of its bags.
Design patents, which protect the ornamental design of a functional item, such as a handbag, often prove to be a relatively time-consuming and costly form of protection to obtain. The turnaround time – or the pendency, the term that refers to the time taken by a patent examiner between 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. With this in mind, we tend to only see such protection sought only for brands’ staple items, and only by brands with the upwards of $10,000 to spend on each single patent.
However, the growing number of recent patent filings and awards certainly sheds light on the fast that brands that can afford it are placing significant reliance on design patents as a valuable form of protection against rampant copying by both fast fashion and mid-market retailers.