American law does not protect most fashion designs. Copyright law views fashion designs not primarily as artistic works, but rather as “useful articles,” and useful things are not granted copyright protection. This rule reflects the fact that useful things are supposed to be the domain of patent law. But clothing designs virtually never qualify for patent protection, because they are almost never “novel” – i.e., truly new – in the way patent law requires.
Copying helps to create trends. It then helps to destroy them: as more and more designers hop on to a trend, the look becomes overdone, and the most fashion-forward consumers hop off. Copying, in other words, accelerates the fashion cycle.
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