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Public Statements

Introduction of the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, Article I, section 8, of the Constitution lays the framework for our nation's copyright laws. It grants Congress the power to award inventors and creators for limited amounts of time exclusive rights to their inventions and works. The Founding Fathers realized that such an incentive was crucial to ensure that America would become the world's leader in innovation and creativity. This incentive is still necessary to maintain America's position as the world leader in innovation.

Most industrialized nations provide legal protection for fashion designs. However, in the United States, the world's leader in innovation and creativity, fashion designs are not protected by traditional intellectual property regimes. Copyrights are not granted to apparel because articles of clothing, which are both creative and functional, are considered useful articles, as opposed to works of art. Design patents are intended to protect ornamental designs, but clothing rarely meets the criteria of patentability. Trademarks only protect brand names and logos, not the clothing itself. And the Supreme Court has refused to extend trade dress protection to apparel designs. Thus, a thief violates Federal law when he steals a creator's design, reproduces and sells that article of clothing, and attaches a fake label to the garment for marketing purposes.

But it is perfectly legal for that same thief to steal the design, reproduce the article of clothing, and sell it, provided he does not attach a fake label to the finished product. This loophole allows pirates to cash in on the sweat equity of others and prevents designers in our country from reaping a fair return on their creative investments.

The production lifecycle for fashion designs is very short. Once a design achieves popularity through a fashion show or other event, a designer usually has a limited number of months to produce and market that original design. Further complicating this short-term cycle is the reality that once a design is made public, pirates can immediately offer identical knockoffs on the Internet for distribution.

Again, under current law, this theft is legal unless the thief reproduces a label or trademark. And because these knockoffs are usually of such poor quality, they damage the designer's reputation as well. Common sense dictates that we should inhibit this activity by protecting original fashion works.

Our undertaking is similar to action taken by Congress in 1998 when we wrote Chapter 13 of the Copyright Act, which offers protection for vessel hull designs. The "Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act'' amends this statutory template to include protections for fashion designs. Because the production lifecycle for fashion designs is very short, this legislation similarly provides a shorter period of protection of 3 years that suits the industry.

The bill enjoys support among those in the fashion and apparel industries. While concerns have been expressed about the scope of previous versions of this legislation, my office has engaged in discussions through the years with interested parties to ensure that the bill does not prohibit designs that are simply inspired by other designs; rather, the legislation only targets those designs that are "substantially identical'' to a protected design. Other provisions, including a "home-sewing'' exception and a requirement that a designer alleging infringement plead with particularity, ensure that the bill does not encourage harassing or litigious behavior.

I urge the Members of the House to support this legislation, which will grant to American creators similar protections that those in most other industrialized countries enjoy.

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