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Examples of Intellectual Property in fashion:

  • brand names such as "NIKE", "GUCCI" and "CHANEL";
  • the Yves Saint Laurent “YSL” logo;
  • the packaging of the blue Tiffany box;
  • the pattern on Burberry products;
  • photos and articles in the fashion magazine Cosmopolitan;
  • the design of new Oakley sunglasses.


A common misconception is that only technology companies need to be concerned about intellectual property protection. As you can see from the list above, valuable intellectual property comes in many forms in the fashion world. Other types of intellectual property are customer lists, business plans, methods of doing business, processes for obtaining a product or end result and designs 




  1. How is fashion protected by intellectual property laws in the United States?  The United States recognizes intellectual property in the forms of trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. One article of fashion may be protected by multiple areas of IP law. For example, a purse can have compound layers of protection. A purse may have a company logo that is protected by trademarks. The printed design on the purse may be protected by copyright. The purse may be of a newly designed material that is protected by a patent. The method for creating that purse could be a trade secret.  The United States does not have a separate system of protection for “fashion design” such as the European Union and Japan do. Therefore designers in the United States must rely on the protection of other IP law.
  2. What is the difference between a trademark, copyright, patent, and trade secret?  A patent is a grant from the federal government. It gives an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing his invention such as a utility patent for a garment or a design patent for sunglasses. A copyright protects one’s expression of a work of authorship, such as a Tiffany heart-shaped pendant design, and grants a right to exclude others from copying, selling, performing, displaying or making derivative versions of the work. A trademark grants the right to exclusively use a brand name, design, slogan, sound, smell or any other symbol used to identify and market goods and services. A trade secret is restricted information, such as a special process of applying hair dye to last longer, which gives a business an advantage over its competitors.
  3. Why should I choose Cislo & Thomas?  Cislo & Thomas has experience in assisting a wide range of clients in the fashion industry. For example, it represents designers, manufacturers, and distributors in cutting-edge eyewear, undergarments, clothing, footwear, and handbags. Sample projects include trademark filing, management, and counseling; patent, trademark, and copyright licensing; utility patent and design patent preparation, filing and counseling; and development of a trade secret protection program. 
  4. I am being sued or have received a cease and desist letter. What do I do?  It is important to discuss matters with experienced IP counsel. An experienced IP attorney can find out exactly what IP rights the other side truly holds and can come with up with strategies for your specific situation. In addition, you will want to speak with your insurance carrier to see the range of coverage, which will affect the strategies you will likely pursue. 


Types of Intellectual Property