We don’t always talk about fashion collaborations in fashion law business, but they are actually a very pivotal part of the industry. When two brands decide to collaborate, it almost always involve some type of legal agreement - a contract and clauses over the ownership and management of existing IP and any new IP created as a result of the collaboration.
When you're trying to give your brand a refreshed, ultra-exclusive sheen in the face of a consumer market that has been experiencing trademark logo fatigue, fashion collaborations with well-respected artists, designers and innovators is one of the tried-and-tested paths toward redeeming clients with the lure of newly branded products. While flashy logo's of the past was an ostentagious display of wealth, now the shift is toward a more refined luxury, (collections like what Phoebe Philo have introduced for Céline) that makes a house memorable for its design aesthetic and shape of its luxury leather goods, rather than its trademark logo alone. As such, brands that have built their empire on the the back of the display of their trademarked logo (Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton) - have been seeking to tone down its use, and reinvent themselves (as a strategy) to respond to the changing needs of the market.
In light of this new direction, we have seen a surge in fashion collaborations. Which includes when Louis Vuitton unveiled their monogram collaboration pieces a little back last year. The collaboration was in order to celebrate , Louis Vuitton Monogram, In honor of the house's 160th anniversary, Louis Vuitton enlisted six creatives, Karl Lagerfeld, Rei Kawakubo, as well as architect Frank Gehry, photographer Cindy Sherman and industrial designer Mark Newson, and Christian Louboutin, to reimagine the fashion houses legendary logo – and create artful fashion pieces using the brand's signature monogram print, and ultimately reinvigorate existing interest in the brand and speak to a different audience.
Among the contributions for ‘Celebrating Monogram,’ Christian Louboutin created the Louis Vuitton studded tote luggage bag incorporating his own signature codes of red, metal studs, and feminine bows.
The collaboration was a huge success, and over the past few weeks the House of Louis Vuitton has been awarded a series of design patents that give the brands rights to the ownership of some of the newly created products. Like the Louis Vuitton studded tote bag displayed above. The design patent was filed for at the USPTO March 9, 2015 and awarded protection late September. The application credits the designer Christian Louboutin down as the inventor and Louis Vuitton Malletier Paris as the applicant - is the owner of the IP.
Also awarded patent design protection from the collection, is the accessory bag (below) as part of the Louis Vuitton x Christian Louboutin Shopping Trolley priced at $23,300 and awarded design patent protection on the 23rd August 2016.
Along with Rei Kawakubo conceptual design for Louis Vuitton which received design patent protection for this bag on August 26th 2016. For the Louis Vuitton x Rei Kawakubo Bag with Holes priced at $2,790.
With fashion design houses focusing on increasing the sale of their leather goods based on a deeper appreciation of design - there are certain forms of IP that exist to support this approach. A design patent is a form of legal protection granted to the ornamental design (i.e. the aesthetic qualities) of a functional item. Design patents protect the way something looks, as opposed to more commonly known utility patents, which protect the way something is used. Since a design is manifested in appearance this seems to be proving particularly useful for luxury fashion brands, especially in the U.S.
In the US, there is also a time limit on seeking design patent protection it can only be sought if the design has not been publicly known for more than a year. Fashion patents like the above one, lasts for a period of 14 years so also gives us an indication of what products luxury fashion brands intend to strategically promote during this time period.