One thing young brands invariably fail to do: Lay a proper foundation to protect some of their most valuable assets. While you may think this means the brand’s designer talent or its real estate space, something actually trumps these assets and it comes in the form of a brand’s intellectual property ("IP”). As rapid designer turnover becomes increasingly common and most brands move away from vast retail schemes (in favor of e-commerce), the value of IP, particularly, trademarks, is more obvious than ever.
For the uninitiated, trademarks come in the form of the name and logo of a brand, and in some cases, the aesthetic design features of a brand’s most iconic designs, usually bags and footwear designs (which, coincidentally, tend to be some of the most heavily copied designs for brands). For Proenza Schouler, for instance, such an item is its PS1 bag. Givenchy has its Antigona and recently relaunched Nightingale bags. Hermes quiet famously has its Kelly and Birkin bags. Such protection comes by way of trade dress, a sect of trademark law.
Yet, the protection of IP, namely, trademarks, is often only a secondary concern for emerging-stage design brands, which can be problematic given the widespread practices of trademark infringement, counterfeiting and cybersquatting, the latter of which refers to the registering and/or using of an Internet domain name with the bad faith intent of profiting from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. Just ask New York-based designer Phillip Lim, who was forced to adopt a China-specific trademark. When he began expanding into the Far East, he was prevented from using his name and original trademarked logo because a third party had already registered and begun using it.