Italy and WIPO to Host Conference on Fashion and Intellectual Property

Geneva, July 20, 2005
Media Alerts MA/2005/20

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Italy's Ministry of Productive Activities and the Italian Institute for Industrial Promotion will host an international conference in Caserta, Italy, from November 30 to December 2, 2005 on the importance of intellectual property to the textile and clothing industry - a sector which is heavily reliant on the development of innovative designs and original creative expressions for its success. The conference will address how the tools of the intellectual property system – copyright, designs, trademarks, and even patents – are used by the fashion industry to promote competitiveness and drive success. Participants will come from the world of fashion, as well as from government, fashion-support industries and academia.

The conference will look at the importance of designs and their protection, which are widely perceived to be critical to the success of the fashion industry. That said, given the short product life cycle of fashion goods, designers are faced with important choices about whether registration, or simple reliance on copyright law, is the best means of protecting their interests. While copyright protection is automatic and immediate, design protection requires the submission of a formal application to the relevant national authority of the country in which protection is sought. Design registration offers a more robust means by which to deter others from copying a design, and to fight unscrupulous competitors who do so. The decision on whether to register a design is usually made on a case by case basis.

The conference will also address questions relating to brand equity, which is a key asset for fashion houses, both large and small, the world over. Fashion brands are central to the marketing strategies of fashion houses enabling companies to establish a bond with their customers through their brand names and to expand their client base. These assets are protected through the registration of trademarks and protection of associated artwork by copyright law.

While patents may not immediately spring to mind when considering the fashion industry, patent-protected technologies can equally put a fashion business ahead of the competition. A portfolio of patents may, for example, reflect technical superiority in the development of new fabrics that do not crease, or are softer, or more weather-resistant. Companies with a strong patent portfolio in fabric technology, for example, are well placed to attract new business partners or investors.

Similarly, in some fashion businesses, core trade secrets may underpin an entire business strategy. For example, a company whose business is built on the speedy delivery of a limited quantity of fashion products may depend on trade secrets to protect its computer-implemented software-based business models. Trade secrets may range from a list of key suppliers and/or buyers, to use of software tools for fashion design, to logistics management of the entire value chain.

The fashion industry is driven by creativity and by the intellectual capital invested in it. The tools of the IP system thus play an important role in establishing and consolidating a company's market position. By protecting intellectual capital in the form of IP assets, fashion companies boost income, raise profit margins and improve their market share through sale, licensing, and commercialization of differentiated new products. Moreover, the IP system enables them to defend themselves against and to reduce the risk of infringement of their IP rights. Good management of IP assets in a business or marketing plan helps to enhance the value of an enterprise in the eyes of investors and financing institutions. The conference in Caserta will shed further light on these critical issues and analyze trends within the fashion industry.

Journalists wishing to cover the conference are requested to submit a letter from their editor, together with a copy of a valid press card, to the Media Relations and Public Affairs section at WIPO at publicinf@wipo.int. An article on IP in the fashion industry is available at http://www.wipo.int/freepublications/en/general/121/2005/wipo_pub_121_2005_05-06.pdf. For more information please call +4122-3388161 or +4122-3389547.