From Silver Screen to Computer Screen
Maybe you wouldn't wear a knockoff -- but would your avatar?
The Academy Awards are a bonanza not only for knockoff apparel manufacturers hoping to sell copycat prom dresses to starstruck teenagers, but also for clothing designers in the virtual world. And they're even quicker than their real-world counterparts. According to USA Today, fans of The Sims video game were already trading knockoffs of Oscar gowns yesterday, with Keira Knightley's aubergine Vera Wang (below) the most popular ...
... and Reese Witherspoon's winning vintage Dior not far behind.
The real-world knockoff trade is aided by the fact that designers can't protect their creations through U.S. intellectual property law, but what about the wearable 2-D copies? Well, strangely enough, designers can claim copyright in sketches of their clothes, though not the garments themselves. And if a clothing designer chose to work online with design software, like an engineer or an architect, those online creations could also be protected -- as could so-called derivative works adapted from them. But since the Oscar gowns at issue here aren't protected to start with, and the copies are drawn from life, it would be hard to argue for protection. So, ironically, it would be easier to protect virtual clothes than real ones.
But for the moment, how cool is it for Vera Wang or the house of Dior to have even virtual characters vying to wear their Oscar gowns? These ladies don't demand exclusives with the house, seek compensation for wearing a dress (forget about actually paying for one), fail to show up for fittings, change their minds at the last minute, refuse to return loans.... Long live the virtual couture client!
Many thanks to Marty Schwimmer at the interesting and clever Trademark Blog for giving me a heads-up. And don't forget to check out his new joint venture, the Shape Blog, on design protection -- it even has a section on clothing!