Heather Celeste Mitchell

Law by Design

It's an exciting time to be an attorney with an interest in design. From academia to the courtroom, design has been at the center of several recent high-profile legal developments.  Consider:

Fashion Law School.  Leading the way is Fordham Law’s Fashion Law Institute.  Launched in September 2010, the Institute offers cutting-edge fashion law programming, including continuing education courses, clinics and symposia.  And the enthusiasm for fashion law on campus continues to grow.  In 2012, NYU Law began offering a course in fashion law, and Loyola Law in Los Angeles is also launching a fashion law curriculum.

Fashion Law Resources.  For fashion-inclined law students and lawyers, there are now several hornbook-style resources, including Fashion Law: A Guide for Designers, Fashion Executives and Attorneys by Guillermo Jimenez and Barbara Kolsun, and Westlaw’s Navigating Fashion Law: Leading Lawyers on Exploring the Trends, Cases, and Strategies of Fashion Law.  And newly launched bar association committees, such as the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Fashion Law, offer professional resources to the rapidly growing fashion law community. 

Fashion Law Week.  The third annual “Fashion Law Week” will take place in Washington, D.C. from February 25, 2013 through March 1, 2013.  This year’s events will focus on “Intelligent Design: Protecting the Luxury Brand” and include panels, a networking reception and a fashion show.

Dueling Designer Shoes.   In a case that captured the fashion law community last year, Christian Louboutin, the design house known for its red-soled shoes, sued Yves Saint Laurent for trademark infringement after YSL began selling a pair of all-red heels (soles included).  In September 2012, the Second Circuit ruled that while Christian Louboutin can trademark red soles, a red-soled shoe that’s red from top to bottom does not infringe the trademark. 

Dueling Designer Chairs.  In October 2012, retail giant Restoration Hardware was sued by Emeco, a Pennsylvania-based furniture manufacturer, for trademark infringement.  In its complaint, Emeco alleged that Restoration Hardware’s Naval chair (which retailed for under $200 before it was removed from the Restoration Hardware website) amounts to an illegal knock-off of Emeco’s Navy chair, first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in the 1940s and still sold today for $470.  The case is currently pending in the Northern District of California.

Dueling Designer Brands.  Also in October 2012, Chris Burch, the former husband of fashion designer Tory Burch, sued Tory Burch and members of her eponymous company’s board, alleging interference with his new business, the splashy “C. Wonder” chain of apparel and home goods stores. The parties settled shortly after the suit was filed, but not before Tory Burch counterclaimed that, among other things, designer trade secrets were misappropriated in the development of the C. Wonder brand (Tory Burch also provided the court with an extensive illustration of the alleged similarities in the design aesthetics of the Tory Burch and C. Wonder brands).

Over the next year, Law by Design will take a closer look at this rapidly developing area of the law through the eyes of some of the individuals at its forefront. I hope you’ll join me on what promises to be a stylish ride! 


Liz Vaysman

I am so happy you posted this!  After researching patent/trademark issues at an internship last summer, I found myself fascinated with various legal disputes involving luxury brands.  As a second-year student, I’m still looking for my niche, and am happy to say that it might be art & fashion law.  I had no idea there was a Fashion Law Week and will definitely make an effort to attend.   Thanks for the great info!

Heather Celeste Mitchell

Thanks, Liz!  So happy to hear that this information is helpful!  Best of luck. 


Great summary of current happenings in fashion & design law.

Heather Celeste Mitchell

Thanks so much!


What “Fashion Law Week” are you referring to?  
I know GW Law is holding a Fashion Law Week next week (Feb. 11th - 14th).  It’s the 2nd Annual Fashion Law Week at GW Law and will feature a career panel with NY & DC practitioners as well as an Animal Testing & Cosmetics Panel.  
<span 1em;”>More info: </span><span 1em;”>https://www.facebook.com/events/479862618739082/</span>

Heather Celeste Mitchell

Thanks so much for posting information about GW Law’s Fashion Law Week!  The Fashion Law Week I refer to in the post is this one:  http://www.fashionlawweekdc.org.  I wasn’t aware of the GW program, but it sounds great.

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