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March on Washington

Their dresses preceded them to Washington, as part of Michelle Obama's inaugural wardrobe.  Now some of the First Lady's favorite designers have taken the trip themselves in order to ask Congress for intellectual property protection for their designs.

Today Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu, Maria Cornejo, and Thakoon Panichgul spent the day on Capitol Hill with CFDA executive director Steven Kolb, promoting the new and improved Design Piracy Prohibition Act.  As in earlier incarnations, the legislation calls for amending the Copyright Act to provide 3 years of protection for registered fashion designs -- a modest request compared to the 25 years of design protection available throughout Europe or the 10 years available in countries including Japan and India.  Or the life plus 70 years granted to creators working in copyrightable media.

For Michelle's designers, the recognition associated with dressing such a fashion-forward First Lady is a tremendous honor -- but publicity alone doesn't pay the bills, especially in the current economic climate.  Jason Wu, for example, doesn't get a penny from the sale of still-legal knockoffs of the gown seen 'round the world (below).  And while the automobile industry and the banking industry can go hat in hand to Washington, the likelihood of a bailout for the fashion industry is smaller than a size zero. 

So here's wishing Seventh Avenue's ambassadors good luck in the land of navy blue blazers and khakis!  Hopefully President Obama, whose own all-American suitmaker was recently forced to declare bankruptcy, will have the opportunity to add his own stylish signature to the bill soon.

 Mrs. O in Jason Wu (left) and ABS knockoff

Photos: Darrell G. Mottley, Esq. and USA Today


UPDATE:  Many of you have asked for the updated text of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act.  Unfortunately, I cannot distribute the draft, but I will provide a link as soon as its introduction becomes official.