British fashion designers showing at London Fashion Week could be doing more to protect their ideas from theft under recent and future changes to intellectual property law, according to The Patent Office.
Changes in design registration law at the end of last year mean designers can make a stronger case against counterfeiters. Designers can now register single design items, like those shown on the catwalk. Previously, at least 50 items had to be made via an industrial process to have a chance of qualification.

Another change is that the design itself is protected and not limited to a specific garment. This means a fabric pattern, once registered, would be protected wherever it appeared, whether on any type of garment or another product.

Designers now have up to a year from first displaying their designs in which to apply for registration, enabling them to test the market before deciding which designs they wish to protect.

From next year an EU-wide single design registration system will be established at Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHI. in Alicante. Once a registration is accepted it will be enforceable across the 15 Member States.

Jeremy Philpott of The Patent Office believes the features of the new law are significant for the fashion industry. He says: “Many designers mistakenly believe that free and automatic copyright will help them take action against copies.

“In truth, many garment designs lose their quality of ‘artistic craftsmanship’ once they become mass produced and a short-lived automatic design right is all they have left. But design right will not always bar the act of copying itself, provided the maker of a later copied garment pays a royalty to the maker of the original.”