Originally posted 2014-04-22 18:33:30.

By Sindy Wenjin Ding | amdlawgroup.com

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The Fashion Law Institute’s 4th Annual Symposium entitled “The spectrum of Style” was held in Fordham Law School in New York on Apr 4. I attended the symposium as a Fashion Law practitioner at AMD LAW, as well as a Fordham Law alumna. The Symposium owns high regards in fashion law industry nationwide, and as expected, it attracted many serious fashion law experts, partners in notable firms, executives from various departments and companies, fashion bloggers and law students for this year’s fabulous gathering. It consists of five panels plus a keynote address, respectively highlighting what’s NOW in fashion law: Sustainability (green garments), Compliance (jewel tones), Runway diversity (whitewash), Trademark squatting (red flag), Fashion & Film (silver screen) and Entrepreneurship (from designer to entrepreneur).

The first panel entitled “Green Light: Seeking Sustainable Style” moderated by Jeff Trexler, Esq. featured Amy Hall (Eileen Fisher), Debera Johnson (Pratt Institute), Laura Koss (Federal Trade Commission), Professor Barbara Pozzo (Universita degli Studi de Milano) who discussed the role of sustainability in global fashion. Ms. Hall from Green Fashion model brand, Eileen Fisher, shared its vision of sustainable fashion and social consciousness. The mapping of the entire supply chain from seed, to farm, to animal, all the initiatives give the company another perspective of thinking about profitability and what does a “good growth” mean. Debarah Johnson pointed out the support of Pratt Institute to young designers in terms of consciousness-built and local jobs, integrating sustainability and design entrepreneurship into education. Laura Koss, as a FTC government attorney, emphasized how the Green Guides regulates in terms of the truth advertising and accurate marketing strategies. All the companies shall comply with the Green Guides to specify the descriptions of their products with back up evidences in all marketing actions, if they state their products are “environmentally friendly” or “made of recycled materials”, etc.

The second panel “Jewel Tones: From Conflict Minerals to Multi-Destination Orders, Compliance is key” talked about Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; how FTC Jewelry Guides impact jewelry companies, how compliance standards are implemented by FJATA; how custom jewelries got tested and conflicted diamonds/mineral regions. Cecilia Gardner from the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) shared that JVC focuses on the enforcement and implementation of legal standards. It also provides tools to jewelry companies about how to effective comply with the requirements. Brent Cleaveland from (FJATA) pointed out the safety standard in fashion jewelries as some chemical elements such as lead and cadmium were already tested in a lot of jewelries that exceed the regular safety standards. Don Obert (Cowan Liebowitz & Latman PC) stated the increasing consciousness of consumers on country of origin, whether or not the diamond is conflict, etc., which would greatly shape designer’s decision.

IMG_2356The third panel “Whitewash: Fashion & Diversity — On and Off the Runway” made a great turning point from fashion items to fashion models. This panel featured Robin Givhan, Pulitzer Prize winner in 2006, a former fashion reporter from the Washington Post and now a critic at New York Magazine, as well as Bethann Hardison, former model and currently a fashion advocate and documentarian. Robin commented that as race goes in fashion, the industry sees itself as open-minded and progressive. It aims to treat race like any other aesthetic touchstone, as unremarkable as red hair or a cleft chin. Race is little more than a “paint chip”… it is not cultural but more of a “does it go with the clothes, hairstyles that I’m showing?” Bethann added that “runway faces and the whole fashion thing just recently started impacting on pop culture… it is regarded as important because runway girls decide how we define beauty since the faces end up on the Vogue cover. But beauty and fashion are two different things.” she explained. She started the “Black Girls Coalition” of models, which has had some achievements at changing things in terms of diversity on the runway. She will be honored with a CFDA Award soon for her extraordinary success on initiating runway diversity and African American models’ rights.

IMG_2358The fourth panel targeted in one particular issue in one particular country: “Red Flag: Are you a victim of unauthorized name registration in China?” This panel discussed trademark squatting and the “first to file” principle in China which allowed cyber squatters to take a US name and trademark in there. The revised Trademark Law of PRC is coming in effect on May 1st, which will make it slightly harder for the Chinese to do this due to some more detailed regulations on “famous marks” in China, “Good faith principle” and “Relative Grounds Examination” which means a comparison of the incoming application would be studied to see if there is a similar application or product already out there. Panel member Susan Anthony, of the US Patent and Trademark Office recommended that anyone who was interested in possibly doing business in China should immediately file the papers to trademark their name country by country, along with the domain names, to fully protect the IPR and prevent any misuse. Monica Richman from Dentons shared that, according the Article 13 of the revised Chinese Trademark Law, “should any rights of a trademark well known to the relevant public be infringed, the trademark holder can follow the relevant provisions in this law to request the protection of the said famous trademark”. Yet to determine whether or not it is a famous trademark, it depends on whether or not the fame is acquired among Chinese consumers, which creates tremendous difficulties for a lot of foreign brands.

IMG_2360The final panel “Silver Screen: Licensing Links Film & Fashion” integrated something very new and very interdisciplinary into this symposium. It featured not only a live panel but also the VP and the Deputy General Counsel for Warner Brothers in LA on Skype. One of the topic centered in the collaboration of products or brands with movies such as the tie-in with Tiffany & Co. and the latest release of “The Great Gatsby.” Ewa Abramas, the associated General Counsel of Tiffany & Co. commented that it was a huge success for both companies as it perfectly controlled over how the products were presented in the plot of the movie. And great tie-ins and time-proper placements could hugely promote the brand, as well as the movie. The new collaborative partnership relation requires two entities that have a great system of intellectual property rights independently, once the products get out of the scene, traditional trademark protection strategies apply.

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Lastly, the symposium ended up with an inspirational speech of Sigrid Olsen, who closed her clothing company in 2008 and has now, after a long legal battle, regained her name (due to licensing agreements in the US, not China) and is embarking on a new venture. She shared her life story and how she combined design and fashion and entrepreneurship. Her newest venture “New Design for Living” draws on her decades of fashion design experiences and merges it with her more recent creative wellbeing endeavors.

AMD LAW has been conducting legal services of fashion law, and other practice areas for fashion designers, bloggers, media and start-ups for a long time. AMD LAW and its Luxury Law Firm branch are committed to creativity and providing you with the best solutions to your legal concerns to facilitate business development and to maximize the value of your brand. For more information regarding intellectual property law, please contact AMD Law (www.amdlawgroup.com), contact@amdlawgroup,com,  (347) 699-4AMD (4263).

Pictures taken by Sindy Ding on the scene; last picture is from Fashion Law Institute Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.652770351439403.1073741839.166646350051808&type=1

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