Model Amna Shafaat in a Yahsir Waheed design (Photo: Salman Akhter Mahmood)
Formed in 1998 by Yahsir Waheed and a business partner and registered under The Companies Act 1980, Brimful Designs (“Brimful”) is a small entrepreneurial textile design studio based in Lahore, Pakistan. It was the first independent, private designer label in lawn prints (a refined form of pure cotton that is worn in summer) in Pakistan which was designed, manufactured and marketed exclusively by a design house.
Since launching its products in 1999, Brimful has been bringing out the Spring/Summer Collection of the Yahsir Waheed Designer Lawn (“Yahsir”) label and others each year, with every collection marking a bold new step in terms of color, motif, design and scale. Yahsir is a 100% cotton printed lawn product for women’s summer attire and is produced by the company in a limited print-run. It is sold in two main cities: Karachi and Lahore.
Brimful is always looking for new opportunities in all forms of fashion and constantly experimenting with new ideas. Taking traditional fashion into the modern era, Brimful focuses on defining new silhouettes and expanding the palette of colors and motifs used, creating a strong and original identity for the Yahsir label and the Pakistan fashion scene. Brimful doesn’t limit its designs to any single theme and ensures that through subtle changes each print looks different, yet they tie together to create a signature style. The company is currently researching diversification into custom-made home furnishings and a “ready to wear” line, with releases expected in the near future. Brimful has also recently released select pieces for men, all in pure silks, chiffon and cotton.
The very existence of Brimful was threatened in 2003 when local print manufacturers organized massive copying of its designs on inferior quality material. These fake copies were produced and sold under various labels at one third of the price of the original product. Blatant use of Yahsir’s printed catalogues by salesmen to sell the fakes in retail cloth shops brought confusion to Brimful’s loyal customers. The availability of cheap fakes created discontent and agitation among clients, resulting in negative customer perception of the Yahsir label, a rapid decline in market share, and the loss of the product’s novelty appeal. Brimful, being a small entrepreneurial venture, was on the verge of going out of business to the hands of the manufacturers producing fake copies.
Brimful’s financial woes led the owners to understand that the protection of their designs would be paramount to their survival. Searching for ways to protect their intellectual work, in 2003 Brimful attended a training program organized by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA). In this program, Brimful sought counsel from an Intellectual Property (IP) expert who advised them to seek protection under the Industrial Design Ordinance 2000 (2000 Ordinance) and to undertake timely registration of their designs to expedite procedures against design infringers. After consultation, Brimful decided to register its designs under the 2000 Ordinance to deter infringers and provide an avenue for legal recourse.
As per Pakistani laws, the 2000 Ordinance provides protection to owners of textile or other industrial designs for ten years and is renewable twice for ten years each, thus giving a total of thirty years of protection. While designs can also be registered under the Copyrights (Amendment) Act of 1992, section 12 of the Copyrights Ordinance specifically says that if the design is reproduced mechanically more than 50 times then copyright protection does not hold. Hence, the most appropriate legal title to protect Brimful industrial designs is the 2000 Ordinance.
Since 2004 all Yahsir designs have been registered under the 2000 Ordinance. Though the cost for design registration is minimal, Brimful has had to engage legal counsel to assist in the registration process. IP legal counsel is becoming more prevalent in Pakistan but remains expensive.
Effective enforcement of their protection rights became essential for Brimful’s continued success. Beyond registering its designs, Brimful used the media to launch an effective campaign against the copiers. In cooperation with law enforcement agencies and legal counsel, in 2004 the authorities raided shops selling fake Yahsir prints and seized their stock. Subsequent efforts in 2005 and thereafter have resulted in significant curtailing of the production of fake Yahsir products.
While the infringers are no longer replicating Brimful’s exact designs, copies are still being made that are close enough to confuse buyers. The process of obtaining and implementing a court injunction takes excessively long, and Brimful would like to see punitive action taken by the authorities against IP violators in the textile sector to further deter copying. However, despite these challenges Brimful believes that design registration and enforcement still holds its merit and is the foundation to a conscious and concerted effort against violators.
Despite tough competition and copiers, Brimful has been able to establish itself and stay at the forefront of the Pakistani fashion scene in a relatively short time. Releasing new high quality lawn collections every year, Brimful is tapping into domestic and international markets with the goal of making Yahsir a global brand. An example of Brimful’s aggressive strategy is a showcase of their new prêt a porter collection, entitled ‘Kee Janah Meh Kon,’ which debuted at the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s Sunsilk Fashion Week 2010 in February in Lahore. Brimful products continue to receive good reviews and press, making them one of the most successful designer lawn labels in Pakistan.
Brimful is poised to be a leader in the growth of the Pakistani fashion industry. Pioneering a new direction for creative fabrics, its research and development and resulting popular designs continue to establish it as a strong player in the market. Consistent growth also results from Brimful’s strong support of quality fashion education, helping to shape a new generation of Pakistani designers.
Facing seemingly endless competition from cheap imitations, Brimful could have collapsed if it did not seek IP protection through registering its designs. Doing so allowed it to significantly reduce the copying of its designs, regain customer and industry confidence, stay at the forefront of Pakistani fashion and to continue creating fresh new designs and future business opportunities. Though it still faces challenges, Brimful has gone from near collapse to a significant force in the Pakistani fashion industry.
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