The linked article, recently published by the EUIPO, provides an excellent breakdown of the Intellectual Property Rights available for footwear. A topic that is particularly relevant to me because, as anyone who knows me can attest to, I love shoes. But this topic is also particularly relevant to shoe designers and manufacturers because, according to data published by the EUIPO in 2020, the footwear industry is ranked as the third most affected by counterfeit imports into the EU.
While there can be many patentable elements of shoes, particularly in this new world of wearable technology, it can be readily assumed that the majority of IPR infringement in the footwear industry relates to designs and trade marks. There is just so much distinct but replicable iconography - the Nike swoosh, the Veja V, the Adidas stripes, the Vans waffle soles, and that's just within the realm of trainers. And, staying in the world of trainers, that iconography is increasingly visible in the world of sponsored events, sponsored athletes, influencers, the metaverse, and seemingly no end to the limits of visual media.
So how can footwear brands protect their distinct and iconic styles? Well, a general approach is to register iconic design elements that are incorporated into all styles as trade marks, and register each new style as a design. Where a particular style is to be produced in a variety of colourways, black and white line drawing representations of that style may be most useful for design registration, unless of course it is a unique colourway that makes the style distinctive.
This is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the possibilities for product and brand protection. As the global consumerist world evolves, innovation in IP strategy is needed to keep ahead.
At Marks & Clerk we have experts in Designs, Trade Marks, Copyright and Patents who can work together to find an optimal IP strategy. Please do reach out if you are looking for advice.