Libertatem Magazine

Does India Need an Upgrade on Its Fashion Laws?

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Although the world economy seems to be slowing down, according to the latest study published by the fourth annual State of Fashion report by The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, the Indian clothing market is expected to be at a worth of $53.7 billion in 2020 whereby making India the sixth largest industry, globally. India’s unique aesthetic expression of fashion stands out internationally through an eclectic traditional and modern mix of clothing, footwear, jewellery, lifestyle accessories, and make-up hairstyles. Since the year 2014, the global clothing and apparel market has shown a growth at a compound annual growth rate of 7.5%, reaching a value of nearly $758.4 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.8% to nearly $1,182.9 billion by 2022. With this growth rate, it is very evident that the stakes involved are high.

Unlike the western counterparts the United States of America and the European Countries where there are dedicated statutes to protect the fashion industry, the Indian legal system till date does not provide any well defined, complete statute for the rights and legal privileges in the fashion industry rather there are various statutes which contribute to the overall protection to the fashion industry. Although at a nascent stage, with the advent of globalisation and modernization the Indian legal system is slowly and steadily creating awareness of the rights of the designers or brand owners to prevent counterfeit and duplication of fashion.  

Without any dedicated statute in place, the fashion industry is very vulnerable, as trends catch on quickly, and multiple companies try to reap the benefits of this demand. This, in turn, will diminish the importance of the design of the product, the labour, the intellect, and the time which is put behind it, which is the brainchild of the fashion designer, and of course, everything comes for a price. The fashion designer will sell their unique product only if it fetches a good amount of money for all the hard work, intellect, effort and the uniqueness put into that product. 

Each person has a unique fashion sense, and it can be created with the use of different brands and items. Fashion could mean a sleek watch, a fancy shoe, an elegant dress, cufflinks, and considering today’s scenario trendy face masks as well thereby enhancing the personality of a person. However, with respect to authentication of fashion, there are various local markets in different parts of India where the latest trends of designer dresses, high-end watches, luxury perfumes, and other allied items are duplicated and sold at a throwaway price. Hence, all designers need a system and a dedicated law and/or a statute to protect the design, ideas, hard work before and after being made public. 

Moreover, many visually impactful social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have revolutionized the Indian fashion industry, where more and more people are influenced by fashion and brands. On the other hand, they are not willing to shell out the kind of money that top fashion designers charge. Consequently, contrabands and copies of the original creations come to the rescue. The moment any design becomes renowned, local companies start plagiarising and copying it resulting in a huge loss for the makers of the original products.

Apart from the designers, there are other people who are also the limbs of the fashion industry and are also the integral part – the models, the photographers, the agencies, distributors, manufacturers, the skilled and the unskilled labourers. 

Here are the kinds of existing Laws in India that the Fashion industry exercises to safeguard and protect themselves from the unscrupulous and nefarious entities involved in manufacturing counterfeit products:

  • The Trade Marks Act, 1999
  • The Designs Act, 2000
  • Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999
  • Copyright Protection Act, 1957

The second important parameter apart from the laws mentioned above would be the Indian Contract Act wherein agreements/Non-Disclosure Agreements need to be signed by the various staff and labourers working in the fashion store or with the designers which also includes the Trade Secret. Simultaneously, labour-friendly laws should also be adopted for the welfare of the labourers who also work hand in hand with the fashion designer or the company. On the flip side, there have been incidents in the past and also existing circumstances where the labourers are made to work in inhuman conditions. The basic human right and dignity should also be monitored and kept in mind while making a complete statute for the fashion industry thereby striking a proper balance.

Since fashion is not limited within the geographical boundaries, International laws also play a very fundamental role in safeguarding the rights of a fashion designer vis-à-vis the fashion industry. 

India, in June 2019 acceded to three key treaties — Nice Agreement, Vienna Agreement, and Locarno Agreement, India thereby becoming the 34th member in the Vienna Agreement.  These are multilateral agreements with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This was undeniably an enormous step towards fortification of the fashion industry in the global arena.  

Many countries such as America, Spain, Milan, Vienna, and France – France is the fashion capital in the world have adopted stringent measures and laws to combat the growing legal complexities in the fashion industry.

With the growing demand for protection for the fashion designers, their ideas, their intellect, and their hard work, its high time laws are made or amended to safeguard their legal rights. Also with the advent of increasing cross-border trade and business, these laws will cater to every fashion designer as well as fashion companies safeguarding their product and design from mischievous people who may steal the designs or products. India being a developing economy is not far behind from adopting and creating a non-exhaustive dynamic statute solely dedicated to the fashion industry and we may soon look forward to a new piece of legislation exclusively for the fashion industry.

This Article is written by Soumi Guha Thakurta. Soumi Guha Thakurta, an independent law practitioner and consultant from Kolkata, West Bengal, with an expertise in Civil Law, Petroleum Law, Writ Laws, Consumer Protect Laws, Matrimonial Law, Corporate Law, and litigation management. Currently empaneled with the State of West Bengal, CPCB, PNGRB, Legal Consultant of Dillions Kidney Foundation (DKF), Volunteer of LASWEB, Kolkata and on the advisory role to numerous companies.

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