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Copyright Law in the Fashion Industry

The fashion business in India extends back thousands of years. Since antiquity, India has been the cradle of fashion apparel knowledge. Men's and women's dress choices were a prominent indicator of fashion during the Indus Valley Civilization (3000-1500 AD). Men in loincloths and women with only their waists are portrayed in the sculptures that are presently on exhibit across the country.

According to Vedic literature, complex methods of producing garments were in use throughout this time period. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about India's high-quality cotton clothes in the fifth century BC. The Rig Veda also recounts the clothing that was dyed, embroidered, and manufactured throughout the Vedic era approximately the eleventh century B.C. During the British colonial era in India, British industrial cloth was pushed. Khadi, a handwoven fabric, was sold in an effort to reduce Indians' dependency on British goods.[i]

An Overview Of The Fashion Industry In India

India's fashion business started to acquire importance in 1980, but by the end of the 1990s, it had expanded tremendously. From 1980 onward, Indian women's involvement in the fashion business has increased. This sector encouraged the nation's women to be empowered. The manufacture of Western-style textiles and fashion products gained steam in the same year as Indian consumers' needs for this kind of product expanded as a result of altering fashion trends.

A number of significant elements contributed to the amazing rise of the Indian fashion sector, including the availability of affordable bespoke tailors, handwoven textiles and craftspeople, and western-inspired garment trends. Conversely, the fashion designers succeeded in gaining corporate finance for their boutiques. The private sector contributed positively to the nation's industry's continuous advancement. Before 2005, the fashion sector began to expand its activities outside of its local market after settling in. During this time, fashion designers began to establish their enterprises in tiny towns. In a single year, the industry made earnings close to two billion Indian rupees. The policy of the Indian government promoted this enterprise.[ii]

It led to an increase in employment and income prospects in semi-urban and rural areas. The cotton and clothing exports profited from the scheme as well. A number of Five-Year Plans stressed rural industrialization as a means of contributing to the expansion of the nation's fashion industry. Currently, the majority of the Indian fashion business is made of an unorganized sector. Despite the diversity of cultures around the world and the ever-altering preferences of consumers, it may still compete in the global fashion industry.

Research by McKinsey[iii] predicts that this industry employs roughly 45 million people directly and 60 million indirectly. It is projected that 41% of procurement officers globally will raise their sourcing proportion from India. The reason for this is that India's average cost is significantly less than China's. Furthermore, a diversity of raw materials such as cotton, wool, and silk are widely available.

The Indian government has started a number of measures to promote textile and garment products globally. The Indian government established various programs to promote textile and garment products internationally. The Integrated Textile Parks Scheme was launched during the preceding Five-Year Plans. The program intends to deliver high-quality infrastructure to the textile sector. Currently, public sector initiatives are also helping to the growth of the fashion business.

In 1998, the Ministry of Textiles of the Indian government founded the National Institute of Fashion Technology with the purpose of assisting the country's specialized garment sector. Because of the requirement for on-the-job training and the constantly increasing garment sector, the fashion industry is in severe need of qualified, recently trained staff.

To assist with these issues, NIFT delivers programs at the certificate, diploma, and degree levels. Many attempts are being made to update academics' understanding of the industry in real-life situations in order to expose them to the newest ways being implemented in the sector and enable them to teach them in the classroom. To aid in the growth of the country's fashion industry, the Indian government also began a number of research and development (R&D) projects in conjunction with industry.[iv]

The future of the Indian textile business is bright, as there will be a growing need for exports on the worldwide market, as well as higher levels of local consumption. Many multinational companies have already joined the Indian market, establishing themselves in remote villages and constructing enormous shopping malls in the country's major cities.

The Indian government is working hard to ensure the future development of the country's fashion industry. According to various estimates, there were approximately 8 million job openings in 2014-15, compared to 45 million in 2018-19. Fashion items from major brands such as Zara, Calvin Klein, Zodiac, and others appeal to Indian shoppers. Raymond, Tata Group, Reliance Retail, and Future Group are among the Indian companies launching their own fashion product lines.

Fashion In Terms Of Intellectual Property

Fashion as an art form is a reflection of life. It is a language comprising of signs, symbols, and iconography that gives information about persons and groups. It is a personality extension and a means of self-expression. Fashion can vary considerably within a society depending on characteristics such as age, social class, generation, occupation, geography, and period. It is continually changing, maybe quicker than the majority of other human activities.

In general, fashion refers to a form of apparel that is popular among a given set of people or at a specific time. Fashion design is the application of design and aesthetic beauty to clothes. The purpose of this artistic endeavor is the creation of one-of-a-kind apparel and other lifestyle accessories. Fashion design, largely considered as the "principle creative element" of the business, has changed over time and space, and is impacted by social and cultural perspectives. Modern fashion design is classified into three categories: mass market, ready-to-wear, and haute couture.[v]

Haute Couture was the foundation for the development and production of fashion clothing until 1950. A couture item was manufactured to order for a single customer out of expensive, premium cloth. It was sewn with painstaking attention to detail and finished with time-consuming procedures.

Clothing in the ready-to-wear line is created in standard sizes rather than to order, making it more suitable for big production runs. Fashion houses frequently display them during fashion week. They are grouped into two categories: designer and confection collections. Designer collections feature one-of-a-kind designs as well as better quality and polish. Rather of being for sale, they are created to make a statement and frequently represent a specific concept. Catwalks across the world showcase both haute couture and ready-to-wear styles.

Mass market sales today play a major role in the fashion business. To meet the needs of a broad spectrum of customers, the mass market manufactures ready-to-wear clothing in standard sizes and enormous quantities. The result of creative use of low-cost materials is affordable fashion.[1]

Major fashion firms set trends that are typically followed by mass market designers. They often wait until the end of a season to see if a trend will catch on before releasing their own copies of the original design.[2] They use less expensive textiles and simpler, machine-assisted production techniques to save money and time. As a result, the final product can be offered for significantly less money.

Origin of 'Stealing Fashion'
Silk weavers in Lyon, France, began to pursue pattern preservation in the early eighteenth century. In the 1850s, French designer Charles Worth established the tradition of exhibiting new clothing designs for each season, which continues to this day. Unfortunately, this strategy gave rise to a subculture of imitators, who produced the Parisian originals at a far lower cost.[3]

The French, who are always at the forefront of fashion design and design protection, used two strategies to combat piracy. First, by attempting to protect their unique fashion concepts through intellectual property rules; and second, by licensing their original designs to other manufacturers, which those manufacturers then reproduced word for word.

The wealthy, who could afford haute couture, flocked to Paris to be among the first to buy the newest creations, while the middle class purchased legally licensed replicas from local department stores. According to Susan Scafidi,[vi] French anti-piracy rules contributed considerably to the expansion of the Paris fashion industry and have continued to do so even though they did not completely eradicate it.

Knockoffs vs. Counterfeiting

A knockoff is a close duplicate of the original fashion design that mimics some of its qualities but is offered under a different label from the original design. It is not advertised to appear like the original as a result. Knockoffs bear the name of another designer but are manufactured to imitate the original design almost identically.[vii]

Example, in New Delhi, there are specific markets in Chandni Chowk and Chor Bazaar which sell knockoff Manish Malhotra designer lehengas and gowns for a considerably lower amount. It is fascinating that it is even marketed as such, and has gained popularity for having knockoff items of various designer houses.

In contrast to a knockoff, a counterfeit is an exact duplicate of the original fashion design, including the brand mark or label associated with that design. The purpose here is to fool buyers regarding the genuine origins and substance of the clothes. Fake clothing is sold as genuine-looking apparel.[viii] Not all counterfeiters, however, will accept this combination because some only copy the labels of high-end clothes manufacturers. These cases solely indicate misuse of the fashion brand's trademark or logo.

An example of this can be when apparels that belong to 'Adidas' are sold as 'Adibas' or 'Abidas', since they ae not manufactured by the brand itself. This is very common when one shops in shops from Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar in Delhi.

Copyright Law in India
Sections 13, 14, 15, and 22 of the Indian Copyright Law are some of the key provisions that may address the protection of Indian fashion designs and garments. Therefore, it would seem that fashion and clothes design fit under the heading of "artistic work." The work in which the copyright exists is covered by Section 13 of The Copyright Act, 1957. Thus, clothing and fashion designs may be deemed artistic works under Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act of 1957 and be eligible for protection under Section 13(1). This means that the author will be the only one with the authority to do the following for an artistic work covered by section 14:
  1. Reproduce the work in any tangible form, including:
    1. storing it in any media, electronic or otherwise;
    2. depicting a three-dimensional work in two dimensions;
    3. depicting a two-dimensional work in three dimensions.
  2. making the work available to the public;
  3. permitting the public to obtain copies of the work;
  4. combining the work into motion pictures;
  5. making any form of adaptation.

Hon'ble Judge Jaspal Singh issued an interim order in Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India and Ors.[ix], a case in which the plaintiff's moral rights were violated, preventing further loss or damage to his mural from Vigyan Bhawan, and forbidding him from taking any actions that would compromise his honor or reputation as the work's creator.

Even though it was too late to save the mural by the time Mr. Sehgal's lawsuit reached the court in May 1992, he was issued an order preventing the defendants from causing further damage to it. By chance, the sitting Judge had a true flair for poetic justice and was an art fan himself.[x]

After reviewing Section 15 of the latter law, it appears that the Designs Act and the Copyright Act share concerns about the protection of industrial designs. Section 15 of the Copyright Act of 1957, when paired with the Design Act of 2000, provides the following:
  1. The Designs Act alone protects industrial designs that are registered in accordance with the 2000 Designs Act provisions;
  2. The Designs Act may protect industrial designs that are eligible for registration under the Act but have not yet been registered;
  3. The Copyright Act, 1957 may protect industrial designs that are not covered by the Designs Act protection.
  4. Before digging more into the provisions of Section 15 of the Copyright Act of 1957, consider how the Designs Act of 2000 may help to protect fashion and garment designs in India.
  5. The Designs Act of 2000 strives to protect unique and creative designs by focusing primarily on appearance and style.

The facts of copyright registration was studied since protection under copyright rules looks like a fair choice. However, the information on copyrights that have been registered as of 2016 is confined to month-by-month registration details and is not available on the Registrar of Copyrights website.

Furthermore, a variety of categories, including literary works, computer software, and creative works, have been commonly utilized to identify registered copyrights. Since there are no longer any works inside the creative work category, it is certainly our job to distinguish between the many works that fall under it.

It can be relatively tough to decide whether creative works belong in the category of fashion design, garment design, or any other field that might apply fashion design. Unlike industrial designs, which can be divided into multiple subcategories, artistic compositions are not subject to the same copyright rules.

The data has been searched for terms connected to fashion designs in order to discover the various works that are registered under the copyrights in the artistic work category. Terms used include garments, clothes, apparel designs, sarees, dresses, dress fabrics, textile materials, jewelry, and bags and handbags as fashion accessories. Prints relating to garments and apparel goods are also used.[xi]

Ritika Private Limited V. Biba Apparels Private Limited: A Case Commentary[xii]
The plaintiff brought a complaint against the defendant for replicating, printing, publishing, selling, or supplying prints or clothing that were a reproduction of their designs. The plaintiff claimed to be the first owner of the copyright in the artistic works relating to these clothes and claimed trade secret violation by its ex-employees.

The court relied on the Microfibres Inc. Vs. Girdhar & Co. & Anr.[xiii], which stated that a design used for creating dresses cannot be protected under the Indian Copyright Act if it exceeds the limit of 50 times.

The court also noted that interpreting the Indian Copyright Act without registering the design under the Designs Act would be redundant, as every design has an intermediate product. The court found that if a design is not registered under the Designs Act, it loses copyright protection under the Indian Copyright Act.

The court found that the defendant was not creating dresses or articles by industrial means, but affixing a print from the plaintiff's copyrighted work as a print on a dress created by the defendant. The court questioned the fairness and justiciability of the extent of copyright protection extended under the Designs Act, 2000 through the limitation under Sec. 15(2).

However, the defendant maintained that the plaintiff's case came under Section 15(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957, as the copyright in the plaintiff's design ceased to exist as it had been reproduced more than 50 times via an industrial method.

The Delhi High Court found that the litigation was precluded by Section 15(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957, as the plaintiff's copyright in the works had ceased to exist. The court decided that Ritu Kumar was not entitled to design protection or enforce its copyright in the original drawing of the design. The Designs Act, 2000 tries to maintain exclusivity while not over-protecting designs, yet the definition of a design excludes any artistic work.[xiv]

The Indian fashion industry is a dynamic and diverse industry that is dependent on the innovation of its designers. This industry, however, presents issues in defending its intellectual property rights from infringement. The Copyrights Act of 1957 and the Design Act of 2000 are key components for maintaining intellectual property protection in the fashion business.

By virtue of originality and artistic effort, the Copyright Act protects designers and their work. Section 2(2) of the Copyright Act broadens the scope of creative work to include creative/artistic work based on visual enchantment. When a design enters the picture and is registered under the Design Act, the role of the Copyright Act is over.

The Design Act's role begins with an authentic/original design, which encompasses features, colors, patterns, shapes, line compositions, and ornamentation. Infringements against these registered designs can be punished for ten years, with a possible extension to fifteen years in specified circumstances. Following registration, the proprietor has entire autonomy over the developed thing in order to prevent counterfeits and knockoffs. Section 22 of the Design Act levies retribution for design piracy in the form of damages.

Understanding how the Copyright Act and the Designs Act interact is crucial to understanding how they complement each other. The Copyright Act seeks to secure the creator's economic rights to produce, transmit, and sell their creations, whereas the Design Act seeks to defend the creator's business interests by punishing infringements.

From the standpoint of the consumer, the Copyright Act and the Designs Act work in unison to defend the consumer's interests. On the one hand, copyright restrictions allow consumers to buy authentic, high-quality ideas, while the Design Act protects consumers from acquiring counterfeited goods.

Finally, the Copyrights Act of 1957 and the Designs Act of 2000 act in unison to address infringements in the Indian fashion business. The Copyright Act and Designs Act, by addressing the special difficulties faced by the Indian fashion industry, offer a complete framework for protecting the intellectual property rights of inventors and designers in the Indian fashion industry.

  1. Tiwari, S. (2016). Intellectual Property Rights Protection of Fashion Design in India: A Panoramic View. SSRN Electronic Journal. URL:
  2. Singh, N. (2018, June 6). Fashion History: Mass Market. - Namanpal Singh - Medium. URL:
  3. Ellis. (2010). Copyrighting Couture: An Examination of Fashion Design Protection and Why the DPPA and IDPPPA are a Step Towards the Solution to Counterfeit Chic. Tennessee Law Review, 78, 163. URL:
  4. I., & Bhattacharjee, S. (2023, November 16). Evolution of Fashion Industry in India. IIAD. URL:
  5. Tiwari, S. (2016). Intellectual Property Rights Protection of Fashion Design in India: A Panoramic View. SSRN Electronic Journal. URL:
  6. Amed, I., & Berg, A. (2021, December 10). The State of Fashion 2019: An 'Urgent Awakening' for the Industry. The Business of Fashion. URL:
  7. Growth Of Indian Fashion Industry. (2010). EGyanKosh, 54. URL:
  8. Tiwari, S. (2016). Intellectual Property Rights Protection of Fashion Design in India: A Panoramic View. SSRN Electronic Journal. URL:
  9. Scafidi. (2008). Intellectual Property and Fashion Design. Intellectual Property and Information Wealth, 1(115). URL:
  10. Christian, E. (2023, June 4). Knock Off Clothing Meaning. The Socialite's Closet. URL:
  11. Borukhovich, B. (2022, August 3). Fashion Design: The Work Of Art That Is Still Unrecognized In The United States. Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. URL:
  12. Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India and Ors., 2005 (30) PTC 253 (Del)
  13. Copyright in the Courts: How Moral Rights Won the Battle of the Mural. URL:
  14. Swarup, & Rastogi. (2021). Fashion Design and Intellectual Property Rights: An Indian Perspective. Journal of Intellectual Property Rights, 26(3). URL:
  15. Ritika Private Limited v. Biba Apparels Private Limited, CS(OS) No.182/2011
  16. Microfibres Inc. Vs. Girdhar & Co. & Anr., 2009 (40) PTC 519 (Del)
  17. Lath, A. (2016, June 2). Ritu Kumar v. Biba : Designs free at 50? Spicyip. URL:

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