Interesting question. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult for fashion designers to secure copyrights for their designs.
Copyright law protects original prints and patterns, unique color arrangements and novel combinations of elements used on apparel and accessories, However, fashion designs themselves aren’t protectable. The one exception under the U.S. Copyright Act is that a fashion design may be protectable “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.” This is a tough standard to satisfy.
Fashion designers can also consider applying for a design patent. Design patents protect the look of a design, or ornamentation, as long as it is novel, nonfunctional and non-obvious to a designer of ordinary skill in the art. Handbags and jewelry are typically granted patents, not so much dresses though.
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