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Sui-Dhaaga Changing Landscape of Intellectual Property in Indian textile and fashion industry

Sui-Dhaaga and the changing landscape of Intellectual property in Indian textile and fashion industry

The Indian fashion Industry and Bollywood live in symbiotic relationship with each other and with our society. For decades it has inspired and got inspiration from the daily life and culture of the ordinary Indian. Time and again Bollywood has showcased the socioeconomic, cultural and political equations of Indian society. While Indian government is awarding and supporting start-ups, Bollywood is redefining entrepreneurship by movies likeBand Baaja Baaraat, Rocket Singh, Badmaash Companyand the recently,Sui Dhaaga.

Sui-dhaaga- the latest buzz at the Bollywood, is not just of a story of poverty, self-respect, self-reliance and entrepreneurship, it is also a story of innovative thinkers, a story touching the concept of lack of Intellectual property (IP) protection awareness among the skilled artisans and how the deep pocketdidi is exploit them. The movie moves around Mamta and Mauji, who, in an attempt to help ailing mother with a comfortable hospital gown, create an innovative gown, having various pockets and slits. The design soon becomes hit and they start getting orders from the fellow patients attendants. They soon realize that while they were busy juggling between life and work, to deliver the order, some deep pocket didi lured them to an offer and copied their design and sold them at very high price. The ordeal with poverty and betrayal followed.

It is not only Mamta and Mauji of our country who are unaware of the power of IP, but even the big designers are in the same shoes. They copy and get copied and the vicious circle plagued the industry for very long. But the fashion Industry now is changing, and winning ofNational Intellectual Property Award 2018 for design and commercialization by Sabhyasachi couture, just proves it.

The fashion industry, which thrives on creativity and innovation, has now has realized the importance of Intellectual property and it isnow taking steps to protect its IP. The designers and the luxury brands are aggressively protecting their innovative and unique creations by filing Design, Copyright, Geographical indication, Trademark or their combinations. Not only this, they are also educating the customers and sending bold messages to the infringers and counterfeits. They are also seeking help from the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to make the friendly environment for this unique business. While fashion industry is vast and ranges from jewelleries, clothes, bags, shoes, watches and other fashion accessories, we take a look here on to the Indian textile industry and its related business.

If we take a look at the design filing by Indian companies in the textile and handicraft (including printing/ weaving), it shows that the stakeholders, be it the elite couture designers or the small artisan group, are waking to the call of IP. They are using IP as a tool to secure their business. Some of the prominent filings in the design section of Indian patent office (as on Oct 10, 2018) are:

Applicant name No of design application filed
Siddhi Vinayak Knots & Prints Pvt. Ltd 1755
Biba apparels private limited 1259
Sabyasachi couture 890
Siddharath Bindra 426
Charming Apparels 128
Tahiliani design pvt ltd 99
R. D. Dyeing & printing mills pvt. Ltd. 55
RohitBal Designs Pvt. Ltd 51
X & O clothing pvt. Ltd 43
Swastika Garments 27
Kewal Kiran Clothing Ltd 24
S. S. Fashion 20
Peps industries pvt. Ltd. 19
House of Anita Dongre Limited 17
Dipak Kumar M. Kajavadara 17
Turel Garments 16
Anju Modi 13
Shree Ganpathi Silk, 11
Dixcy Textiles Pvt. Ltd 10
Galaxy Clothing Co. 9
Palav fabrics 8
Prakash Chand 6
Raw Mango 6
Kessi Fabrics Pvt. Ltd 5
Shingora Textiles Limited 3
Siyaram Exports India Pvt. Ltd. 3
Manoj N. Talaviya 3
Radhikanaik Couture 3
Future Retail Limited 1
Radnik Exports 1

Source of data: Indian patent office design search portal

Further, it is not only the individual designer or retailers who are being proactive, but the collective artisans are also registering their work (handicraft/ printing/ weaving) under geographical indication with the help of the state government. Geographical Indication shows that the particular product owes some peculiar characteristics owing to its place of origin. In terms of a product such as tea or wine or chocolate, it would mean that the specific aroma or flavour is present by the virtue of the place of origin. One such example is Darjeeling tea where the flavour of tea is due to the climatic condition of at the Darjeeling plantations. In terms of textile or handicraft products, it means that the product has been made by a particular tribe or artist group or community that hail from a particular place. Keeping in view the diversity of traditional knowledge and products spread all over the country, the registration under GI will be crucial in future growth of the tribes / communities / skilled artisans associated in developing such products. Some of the geographical indicating filed in the class of textiles are as below:

GI Good Geographical area Applicant
Chanderi sarees Textile Madhya Pradesh Chanderi Development Foundation
Kullu Shawl Handicraft Himachal Pradesh H.P. Patent Information Centre
Solapur Terry Towel Handicraft Maharashtra Textile Development Foundation
Phulkari Embroidery Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan Punjab Small Industries & Export Corporation Ltd.
Srikalahasthi Kalamkari Handicraft Andhra Pradesh Kalamkari Artisans Revival and Upsurge for National Acclaim (KARUNA)
Kota Doria Handicraft Rajasthan Kota Doria Development Hadauti Foundation (KDHF)
Kancheepuram Silk Handicraft Tamil Nadu Department of Handlooms and Textiles
Uppada Jamdani Sarees Handicraft Andhra Pradesh The Uppada Handloom Weavers Co-operative Production & Sales Society Ltd
Lucknow Chikan Craft Handicraft Uttar Pradesh Small Scale Industry & 3 others
Bhagalpur Silks Handicraft Bihar Bhagalpur Tussar Silk Development Samiti

The number and diversification are quite impressive as the applicants are spanning across the couture houses to the single person applicants.

While we are gearing up to a new awaken artisans, piracy is still prevalent in this industry. Piracy and counterfeiting can only be handled by awareness among customers and sellers and by the help of the law enforcement agencies. The designers and the big retail houses are now taking step to fight this menace also.

Recently, Burberry took a bold step of burning its unsold and unwanted stock protect its intellectual property and avoid counterfeiting. Similar steps were taken by H&M and Richemont also. Apart from such in house step companies are now taking infringer to court as well. Some of the cases are Ritika Apparels v BIBA and People Tree and Dior. The case of People Tree is quite interesting.

Here, The People Tree (Delhi) alleged Christian Dior (France) of plagiarism after seeing Sonam Kapoor on the cover page of ELLE, wearing their block prints design. Orijit Sen (People Tree) claimed that the handmade blocks was were created by The People Tree.In May 2018, the matter was settled out of court and details were not revealed as a non- disclosure agreement was signed by People Tree as a part of the settlement. However this case sent a message to the mega brands and now they will think twice before getting into such act of plagiarism.

The day is not far whenSui dhaagathe sequel will be showcased asSui-dhaaga-Reloadedor sui dhaaga- restitched or sui dhaaga- the conclusion where the protagonist upon learning that their design has been copied will not be a victim but a master of that situation and would serve a legal notice to the Big DidD.

Disclaimer: The list in the above tables are not exhaustive. It is for illustration purpose only.

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