Arlington, VA -- The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) yesterday submitted a letter to the U.S. Congress stating its strong opposition to the expected re-introduction of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. This legislation would stifle the creativity that drives the fashion industry forward and would require legitimate producers to navigate through new burdensome processes to get their garments and shoes to market.
"The U.S. apparel and footwear industry has long advocated for stronger protections of their intellectual property," said AAFA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. "The Design Piracy Prohibition Act, however, would not provide the meaningful intellectual property protections sought by innovative and forward-thinking designers. In fact, this well-intentioned but ultimately detrimental legislation would hinder creativity by putting many legal barriers between the designer's sketch pad and the consumer's closet."
"Inspiration is what moves our industry forward, but the Design Piracy Prohibition Act simply takes the fashion designer out of the equation," said AAFA Board of Directors Chairperson Carol J. Hochman, CEO of Triumph Apparel Marketing. "This legislation would put companies like ours at great risk of potential litigation if anyone feels our legitimate designs are too similar to theirs. When you make work-out and performance clothing like we do, the risk is high. This risk would be thrust onto every producer and brand in the apparel and footwear industry."
AAFA is keenly aware that high-end fashion items are often knocked off and marketed only days after being unveiled in public. While this legislation is attempting to thwart this specific practice, it actually goes much further.
As currently written, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act would:
*Create legal ambiguity in the fashion industry by utilizing a "closely and substantially similar" standard for infringement.
*Automatically extend ownership rights of a design without any test to determine if such rights are merited.
*While prohibiting the protection of all fashion items that previously existed, the legislation allows for the protection of these same "non-original elements" if arranged in an original way.
*Provide opportunity for one designer to maintain a monopoly on any "trend" for three years.
This legislation would have dire consequences on an industry already facing challenging economic times. The fallout from its passage would include higher clothing prices to meet the needed staffing influxes to register designs and possibly defend them in court and would keep up-and-coming designers out of the market. Most importantly, however, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act would stifle the creative process and remove art from fashion design.
"The essential driver of fashion is inspiration," Burke stated. "And this bill outlaws inspiration."
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) is the national trade association representing apparel, footwear and other sewn products companies, and their suppliers, which compete in the global market. AAFA's mission is to promote and enhance its members' competitiveness, productivity and profitability in the global market by minimizing regulatory, commercial, political, and trade restraints.