From the live colour changing garments on the Anrealage Autumn/Winter 23-24 runway, to the receipt printer dress created by Cameron Hughes and worn by Gigi Hadid during season 2 of Netflix's Next in Fashion, the meeting of technology and fashion seems to be more prevalent than ever in 2023. Not to mention the increasing number of designers that are experimenting with 3D printing textiles and garments, and the examples of "high-tech" garments listed in the referenced article.
These developments might be attributed to the increasing desire for viral social media moments in marketing strategies, or indeed to the increasing awareness and acceptance of diversity in STEM. Regardless, as an MEng with a self-proclaimed "passion for fashion", seeing technology being embraced, experimented with and developed by the fashion industry brings me a lot of joy. But it also gives plenty to think about from an Intellectual Property view point.
A patent is used to protect a technical concept, but aesthetic creations are excluded from patentability. Opposingly, a registered design is used to protect the aesthetic appearance of a product, but a registered design cannot subsist in features which are solely dictated by technical function. The correct IP strategy therefore may not be clear cut where an innovative technology is being used to generate the aesthetic appearance of a garment or forms part of the aesthetic appearance of the garment. However, with expertise in both patents and registered designs, an IP strategy for a given garment, that weaves through the pitfalls of excluded and invalid subject matter, can be developed.
Registered designs can be a particularly useful IP tool for small scale or independent fashion designers as a means of obtaining registered protection for the aesthetic appearance of a garment via a relatively low cost and straightforward process.
While social media may play a role in encouraging innovation, it also must claim some responsibility for the normalising of 'dupes' on the market, so obtaining protection for their aesthetic creations has never been more important for emerging designers.
At Marks & Clerk we have practitioners that specialise in both patents and designs, who can offer advice on optimising protection for a product or design that combines both technical and aesthetic elements.