Students on the Executive MBA (Fashion) at London College of Fashion last night attended a panel at the City offices of international law firm and LCF supporters Hogan Lovells to discuss intellectual property.

On the panel were Emma-Jayne Parkes; LCF Alumna and co-founder of Squid London, Clare Boucher; Head of Designs Policy at The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Sahira Khwaja; Partner at Hogan Lovells, Roxanne Peter; IP Manager at the V&A and the panel was chaired by Kristina Vetter, Executive MBA (Fashion) candidate, Silicon Valley startup executive, attorney and photographer.

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The main theme of the talk was the balance between protection and inspiration. Sahira said that in the UK the law says that protection must not impede ‘fair competition.’ Roxanne talked about the responsibility of the V&A as an institution to allow as many people access to be inspired by works of art, whilst protecting those art works. It was felt by the panel that in the long run some imitation is beneficial to society, not only for cycles of fashions and styles, but to create new things from a multitude of inspirations. The key is to add something, rather than an exact recreation, and this is where faking is a crime and the law steps in.

Emma-Jayne talked about how Squid protected their colour-changing rainwear designs by registering designs individually with the Intellectual Property Office after finding information about IP at the British Library. They didn’t patent their ideas but trademarked the SquidLondon and SquidKids names, and the combination of the two things is a cost effective yet robust solution. They are about to launch in China, where IP law is completely different again, and she talked about the importance of building long-term relationships and understanding cultural differences, for example in China it is considered a very desirable skill to be able to copy a product exactly. If a brand has a relationship with its manufacturer from the start there is trust, and differences can be resolved.

Intellectual Property rights relating to fashion is complicated because the law separates art forms from creative products that are mass produced and sold, or that have a use rather than just being looked at. The panel considered the question; when does couture become a work of art and therefore protected by copyright?

The evening finished with networking for the Executive MBA students and key industry guests, drinks and canapes.

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