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Law students with an additional interest in Fashion can opt for Fashion Law

published July 10, 2006

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( 476 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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Got a passion for fashion? How about a good eye for a good buy? Want to read Vogue and In Style and have that count towards billable hours? Perhaps you should consider specializing in fashion law.

Law Students With An Additional Interest In Fashion Can Opt For Fashion Law

Fashion law is a rapidly growing specialty that deals with the issues of intellectual property, including copyright and trademark law, business law, licensing, textiles, merchandising, and, on occasion, the import/export side of customs. A fashion attorney negotiates the best deals for his or her clients. Those clients may be large retail chains, haute couture labels, high-fashion models, or an unknown designer just starting out. If and when the situation arises, a fashion attorney will litigate for his or her clients in court.

The pros of working in such a distinctive area of specialization are plenty. Fashion law offers a backstage pass to a glamorous, star-studded industry. There are opportunities to attend glitzy, upscale parties; wear the latest in designer fashions; and hobnob with all of the beautiful people. A good fashion attorney can earn good money—with emphasis on "earn"; the drawbacks of this type of work include piles of paperwork, long hours, and high stress. Also, a dispute can occur on either a domestic or an international front; so a willingness to travel is a must.

A more comprehensive definition of fashion law consists of providing advice on intellectual property and commercial matters to fashion houses, designers, manufacturers, distributors, modeling agencies, retailers, and photographers. It covers everything from branding, protection, and enforcement of intellectual property rights to the non-contentious commercial side of the business, such as licensing, manufacturing, and distribution contracts and agency and franchising agreements.

Fashion houses and accessory designers both face unique challenges specific to their industry. They require attorneys who understand the nature of short seasons and ever-changing product cycles, pressures surrounding counterfeit goods, and the issues of unfair competition. Valuable assets in the fashion business consist of not only intellectual property rights, but also trade arrangements, contracts, and information technology systems. A fashion attorney's career success may depend on being able to effectively protect these assets by delivering industry-specific legal advice tailored to the clients' needs.

Fashion law is a unique specialty because of its focus on intellectual property. There are two primary concerns that need to be emphasized in a fashion law practice: protection and exploitation. A fashion attorney will be expected to advise his or her clients on all forms of protecting copyright and trademarks, as well as the newer database and design rights. There are opportunities to serve as corporate counsel, as many of the larger design houses and major retailers have their own in-house legal teams.

While it is not completely unknown in the United States, the fast-paced field of fashion law is much more established in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. The Fox Williams Fashion Law Group in London was founded with one purpose in mind, and that is to provide focused legal information to the fashion industry. It is comprised of a cross-departmental team of attorneys who are dedicated to providing their clients within the fashion industry with one-stop service and a high level of expertise. Many of their attorneys practice the sub-specialty of employment law within the fashion industry. Employment problems frequently demand a quick response time, necessitating extensive additional knowledge of workplace regulations. Onside Law and Harbottle & Lewis are two other London-based firms that provide high-quality legal services to select clients in the media, fashion, and entertainment industries.

Imitation used to be the highest form of flattery, but not anymore. High-profile style wars between fashion houses and ready-to-wear retailers are becoming increasingly frequent as high-ticket designers serve notice to knock off the knock-offs. One high-end retailer recently received an out-of-court settlement from a discount clothing chain over the alleged copying of some of its pieces. Other copycat cases are pending. But as more and more discount retailers and independent entrepreneurs "borrow" expensive designs to create inexpensive and affordable imitations, a good lawyer is fast becoming a must-have accessory for every fashion designer.

While the role of the fashion attorney is a glamorous one, there is an important caveat. While it's true that fashion attorneys often get invited to good parties, going into this area of practice just because it seems glamorous can be a trap. Fashion law is a very specialized area, and it is important to understand how the entire industry works. It is imperative for fashion attorneys to comprehend the subtleties and nuances of a particular brand and its full marketing strategy and to be able to distinguish the works of different designers.

And after all of that, you get to go shopping.

published July 10, 2006

( 476 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.