Patents in Fashion: Protecting Creativity and Innovation



The fashion industry is a dynamic and ever-changing sector that thrives on creativity, innovation, and originality. Trends in fashion are as fluid as the fabric they are made from. The impeccable intersection of technology, artistry and commerce that is the fashion industry, has given rise to continuous flow of original designs and modern consumer experiences. As the fashion sector has witnessed an ever-advancing surge in creativity and innovation with industry workers and stakeholders redefining aesthetic norms and pushing boundaries, the strategic management and utilization of Intellectual Property has become an integral part to protecting and promoting innovation and capitalizing its commercial value.

The fashion business requires aggressive steps to preserve intellectual property due of its fluid and fast-paced nature. Protecting originality is the first step in intellectual property protection. IP law has a significant impact on the fashion business, notably through the use of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These act as a line of defence, making sure that original ideas, brand names, and designs are safe from infringement. IP protection is the cornerstone on which business plans for fashion enterprises are built, not just a legal formality. It ensures exclusivity and protects the brand's integrity.

A patent grants the applicant with an exclusive right over an invention, product or a process providing a new way of doing something or offering a new technical solution to a problem. Patents may not immediately come to mind when it comes to IP protection in the fashion industry, however, designers can seek protection through this form of intellectual property.


Patents in the fashion industry can serve as an effective mechanism to protect innovation, design, processes, and technologies. They offer exclusive rights to their creator and promote economic development by fostering competition and innovation in the market. While patent might not be the first IP right that a fashion business would apply for, their importance is increasing with growing technical advancements in the world of constantly evolving trends.

Innovations and development in fabric technology such as the newly launched sunscreen jackets by Blue Tyga, crease resistant fabrics, or waterproof and fireproof clothing provide perfect example of when fashion meets tech and this is where the industry can utilize patents to protect their creative innovation.

A Danish Biotech company, Novozymes, pioneered the treatment of fabric by use of enzymes. Though this company had no presence in the fashion scene, in 1987, they developed and patented a technology for treatment of stone-washed denims using an enzyme that removed the Indigo dye from the fabric, giving it the modern worn-out look. Within a couple of years, most of the denim finishing industries used this technology under license from Novozymes. The company obtained thousands of patents and liberally licenses them out to maximize royalties and revenue from their IP assets. Fashion Businesses can follow suits and use the protection of patents for their unique manufacturing processes and products.

The elite status of the bags made from patented Hermès leather and its patented zipper mechanism offer great insights on how patents can help protect innovation in the luxury fashion industry. Coperni’s revolutionary liquid fibre dress sprayed on Bella Hadid at the Paris Fashion Week was an iconic moment in the fashion industry that blurred the lines between artistry and technology. Such novel manufacturing processes need to be protected to promote innovation in an industry which thrives on creativity.

Moreover, patent protection extends beyond manufacturing processes and materials to design elements as well. Design patents safeguard the decorative and ornamental features of fashion products. They basically protect how a product “looks” from being copied by another and ensuring that the designs remain exclusive to their creators. Brands like Lululemon, Louis Vuitton Malletier, and Hermes hold a lot of design patents and utilize this IP type to protect their brands.


Despite being underutilised, patents offer numerous advantages to fashion businesses to stay on the top of today’s competitive market. Not only do they provide protection from infringement by preventing competitors and others in the market from replicating the designs and processes without authorisation but also provide an opportunity to commercialize their patents through licensing them and generating revenue out of them. This can also help expand their reach and capitalize on opportunities in new and unexplored markets and categories leading to the growth of their brands.

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The exclusivity offered by patents safeguards innovation and originality while also compensating and rewarding the creators for their time, resources, and creativity put into developing new products. Knowing that their innovation will be protected acts as an incentive for creators to develop new fashion technology and novel functional designs. Patents provide financial stability to the business by ensuring a period of exclusivity in the market. The products face lesser direct competition helping the brand to earn higher revenues within the period of exclusivity. Patents also hold value as part of company valuation and form part of IP assets owned by the business.

A robust patent portfolio signifies technical and creative superiority thus affording credibility and goodwill to the creators and also helps attract investments and collaborations. Being recognized and staying relevant is crucial in the fashion industry and developing new designs and patenting them is an effective way to achieve this and enhance the attractiveness of the brand. They offer a competitive edge by protecting unique ideas and products thus setting the brand apart from others in a saturated market.

In an era of smart wearables like shoes that count your daily steps or sunglasses that record videos, patents have made it possible to ensure that smart technology can be integrated with garments and accessories making style smart and functional. Patents protect the technology and design behind these fashion gadgets providing creators the much-needed assurance that their innovation will remain exclusive to them. These gadgets that are a product of the integration of fashion and technology can be protected through both utility and design patents.

Patented technologies can become trendsetters and set standards for the industry if they are able to offer significant improvements or solution to common problems, thereby shaping the future of fashion technology. These innovations often contribute to the general body of knowledge within the industry and beyond. By promoting advancements through patents, companies can help drive overall industry progress.


While patents offer significant advantages to designers and fashion businesses, they also present several challenges that they must navigate. One such challenge is the cost and complexity of the registration process. Securing a patent requires thorough research, detailed drafts on specifications of the product and navigating the sea of legal intricacies, all of which require a great deal of legal and technical expertise. The monetary investment required for patent filing and prosecution are substantial which could pose to be a big issue for small businesses and independent designers. Providing financial assistance and legal support to small designers can help democratize access to patent protections.

Moreover, the process is very time-consuming and the application takes years to be reviewed and granted. Designs and technologies that are innovative and popular in one season can become totally outdated and irrelevant in the next one. Such is the transient nature of trends in the world of fashion where the technology can become obsolete by the time a patent is secured for it. The lengthy waiting period from filing to registration can reduce the long-term value of the patent in such a dynamic industry where trends change so quickly.

Fashion being a trans-border industry with global supply chains inevitably means that different legal systems govern the industry which makes it even more complicated to enforce IP rights. In creative industries, it becomes extremely difficult to prove claims of infringement thus making it more and more difficult to litigate cases of infringement.

Overcoming these challenges needs strategic planning, investment, and collaboration among various stakeholders. There is an ardent need to devise strategies that maximize the benefits of IP protection in the fashion landscape by streamlining the process of patent filing and prosecution, expediting the review process for fashion related products, and engaging in thorough pre-screening to ensure that the product satisfies all the necessary conditions for patentability to avoid future objections. Furthermore, others forms of IP protection like trademarks and copyright can be used to complement patents and provide additional layers of defence against infringement.

There is a need to adopt a pro-active approach in monitoring and enforcing patent rights in order to deter infringers and protect innovation. Businesses need to regularly monitor market trends and enter into strategic licensing agreements to ensure that they make the most of their IP rights and generate revenue from their patented technologies and designs.

Fostering a culture of creativity and innovation is crucial to promote new and ongoing development of patentable technology and designs in fashion. Embracing new and sustainable technologies and trends can open up the floodgates of opportunities for patenting breakthrough innovation in the fashion industry. Integrating IP considerations into crafting business policies and strategies can help fashion businesses leverage patents as valuable assets for driving revenue and competitive advantage thus fostering growth and protecting investments in innovations.


The fashion industry has not yet utilized patent protection to its full potential due to perceived challenges and shortcomings like the lengthy registration processes, high costs, and the ever-changing nature of trends in the industry. However, the evolving integration of fashion and technology is reshaping perceptions as designers are increasingly leveraging technology and software to create innovative products, manufacturing processes and novel designs. Patents are now becoming indispensable tools to protect intellectual property and drive innovation and competition in the dynamic world of fashion. Design patents become more important than ever here as new designs achieved with great research and development efforts require legal protection from infringement. While patents may not be the traditional form of intellectual property protection in the fashion industry, they offer numerous strategic, financial, and operational advantages that can significantly benefit fashion businesses, especially those at the forefront of technological and sustainable innovations.

Author : Vaidehi Sharma, a student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, in case of any query, contact us at Global Patent Filing or write back us via email at

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