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Information: Fashion Design

A brief summary of the relevant forms of protection currently available in the UK is set out below:


Original drawings, and other graphic works, are protected by copyright as artistic works, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The garment itself will also be protected by copyright if it qualifies as a work of artistic craftsmanship.

Copyright in artistic works/works of artistic craftsmanship lasts for the lifetime of the artist/creator plus 70 years. If applied industrially, copyright lasts for 25 years from first marketing.

If the garment does not qualify as a work of artistic craftsmanship, it will be protected (if an original work) under the 1988 Act by design right. This lasts for 10 years from first marketing (with a further 5 years maximum to cover the previous research and development stages).

Copyright and design right arise automatically as soon as a work takes some form from which it can be reproduced (including storage in a computer). No action is necessary to establish, secure or maintain copyright, though it is advisable to mark the work (as a warning to others) with the standard copyright formula: © + name of copyright owner + year of creation. No cost is involved.


If original works, textile designs are protected by copyright as graphic designs, that is, artistic works, as regards the original drawing and as surface decoration on the finished work.

If surface decoration is not involved, protection of the finished textile is by design right (see Information Sheet 16 – Product Design).

For the term of copyright/design right see the section on Garment Design above.


If original works, labels are protected under the 1988 Act by copyright as graphic works or as surface decoration (see 1. and 2. above).


Protectable by statute only as trade marks, under the Trade Marks Act 1994. Requires registration at the Intellectual Property Office. For more information about Trade Marks go to or to the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys at or to the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys at Registering a trade mark involves some cost.


In addition to statutory protection, all the above items are potentially protected under the “passing off” area of the common law (which has been shown by recent judicial decisions to be a strong form of protection in cases where reputation has been clearly established).


Since this is a complex and specialised area of the law, anyone intending to go into business involving the reproduction of copyright works is strongly advised to take expert legal guidance about their own situation.


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