Proposed new law sparks rift in U.S. fashion industry

Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:50am EDT
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By Mary Angela Rowe

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A proposed new law that would extend copyright protection to clothing has designers in an uproar and threatens to widen a rift in the American fashion industry.

For Maria Cornejo, whose Zero + Maria Cornejo label is a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (DPPA) would protect her work for three years from knock-offs.

It would also put the United States on par with Europe and Japan where fashion has strong copyright protection.

Like other independent designers in America, where labels and logos are protected by trademark but clothing designs aren't, Cornejo says her work has been copied.

"We had other designers coming and shopping in our stores. I felt like crying afterwards because I knew they were buying samples (to copy)," said Cornejo.

"They're basically putting their hand in my head, which is my bank, and stealing ideas. It's basically robbery."

But Isabel Toledo, creator of Michelle Obama's inauguration outfit, fears the DPPA could widen the rift between the fashion and apparel industries - and leave consumers with fewer options.