Here’s a Plan to Safeguard your Designs from Plagiarism!
Here’s a Plan to Safeguard your Designs from Plagiarism!
Chandni Chowk, a wholesale market of old Delhi is flocked with counterfeits of designer clothes available at half the price, and the designers who top the list of designer counterfeits include- Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra, Hemant & Nandita and Shyamal & Bhumika, it sure explains that the market of fake designs is thriving.
Plagiarism is no doubt rampant, but there are few who cares when the designs have taken to task the ‘fakers’. The first case that comes to limelight is when Veteran Designer Tarun Tahiliani, fought against a rebel copycat Rajesh Masrani, who was accused of violation, for wrongfully copying his protected designs.
In another case of Trademark Infringement, Louis Vuitton filed a suit in 2013, against a copycat Manoj Khurana. He was held up for trademark counterfeiting, passing off, and trademark dilution, and seeking a permanent injunction restraining infringement of its registered trademarks, including “Louis Vuitton,” the “LV” logo and the “Damier pattern”, which was passed in favour of the Luxury brand.
Facing the struggle of plagiarism or copyright infringement, the designers continue to find them vulnerable to the loss of brand position and desirability, which had been a serious issue in the Fashion Industry. And while this concept of copycat economy is widespread especially in Fashion, it has majorly been because of dramatic rise in fashion weeks in India with the undeniable exposure of designer pieces. It puts their collection into more vulnerable position and further the chances of these design getting copied and converted into plagiarised product retains.
Second is the acceptance of the fake designer pieces by the consumers because they like the idea of buying imitations at much lower price than the actual price.
FFT in conversation with Mr.Safir Anand, the Head of Trademarks at a Law firm Anand & Anand, who was the lawyer in both the cases above cited cases that clear the air between plagiarism and inspirations, and how to handle such situations:
FFT- To which extend according to you, copying a design or idea is allowed? In terms of look-a-likes and signature styles and where exactly do we draw a line between inspiration and plagiarism? Which are the laws that can protect the work from infringement?
Mr.Safir Anand: This question reminds me of a quote “To steal from many is research; to steal from one person is plagiarism.” The issue of pastiche or plagiarism vs. inspiration is not a new topic, it has been with us for years and it will remain till there is creativity in the world. It forms the basis of copyright and IP. People say there is a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism, I disagree.
Inspiration is taken from the concept or from a vague sketch, whereas plagiarism is from the end result, wherein there remains a clear cord between the original and the “inspired” product. As people, we seek inspiration from our surroundings all the time. Look at airplanes for instance, the idea came from birds, and birds continue to be credited for this Idea!
In case of the fashion industry, protection under copyrights and the designs act is imperative, as the same may sufficiently protect the interests of designer. Copying is not allowed at all and can cause serious trouble for the plagiarist.
Sometimes a signature style is taken from Indian heritage and tradition, in which case, the signature style may not be protectable. Whereas, in some cases, the signature styles, which have certain unique elements like the way of draping/braiding/embroideries etc. are capable of protection.
FFT- According to you, why do we need copyright and design protection on our work? In case of young emerging designers when you do not have your designs protected, how could you fight in this situation?
Mr.Safir Anand: Copyright is something that subsists automatically upon creation. An artist or a designer does not really need to take any legal measures for seeking copyright protection, as protection is immediate upon tangible conception of the work of art, whereas, for designs protection, a registration must be obtained.
Thus, to answer your question, we need copyright registration for evidentiary value in legal battles, and for conducting raids on possible plagiarist. To fend oneself in legal battles or when at loggerheads with another party, a copyright registration comes in handy, which is why it is recommended. Talking about unprotected designs, it will depend on whether the concerned design can be protected under the realm of copyrights.
FFT- At what point do ‘unprotectable’ ideas become ‘protectable’ expression, as in when one individual copies someone else’s design and own it?
Mr.Safir Anand: Firstly to obtain any copyright protection, it cannot be just an idea; it has to transcend from an elusive indication to a tangible format in the form of a drawing, story etc. The creator of such a tangible format may assert rights against misuse/plagiarism by someone else.
In a case, where a designer discussed an idea with another designer and the latter created the tangible form, the former can do very little to enforce his rights. Thus, it is imperative that any idea, before it is shared, is converted to a protectable tangible format. In fact, designers can also protect themselves through contracts.
FFT-Do you agree that Designer outfit copied by a copycat affects the brand loyalty and the desirability of a designer wear?
Mr.Safir Anand: Yes, Brand or trademark is anything that creates consumer association. While design and brands are different, sometimes the appearance of an outfit could be a potential trademark or a brand.
If such a design that has a brand value or consumer association is plagiarized, then there could be an impact on the brand name. Further, sometimes, plagiarists also cause an illusion by wrongfully mentioning the name of the original creator on websites against the copied styles. That also results in damaging the brands name.
FFT- Most people we know are scared of legal recourse since they think its of no value for the time it consumes and further if the case is announced in favor, the money involved is too less? How exactly does law quantify the amount of compensation?
Mr.Safir Anand: The speculation is justified. However, it must be borne in mind that it is the right holder with whom vests great responsibility, of not just protecting one’s IP, but also enforcing rights in case of misuse by others. If such steps are not taken, then the designs will lose its originality. Depending upon the nature of scale of the misuse and activities, compensation is determined.
FFT-What is the exact procedure of getting your designs protected? What is the amount involved?
Mr.Safir Anand: The relevant design must be protected prior to its publication in any form. A relevant statutory form must be filed with the Designs Office along with the photographs of the desired design. While the government fee for filing the application is Rs. 1,000, and the legal fee differs from law firm to law firm.