Amazon – hot to trot with fashion offering…

DVDs, CDs, Zak Posen, Books…Hang on a minute; did you just say Zak Posen…on Amazon?

It’s well known that Amazon has been trying to enter the fashion world for some time, and 2015/2016 has really seen it step up its efforts to break the notoriously difficult market.

Amazon

Hey little guy! We love the Ama-bot! Perhaps all Amazon fashion deliveries should come in a package like this one…

The beginning…

Amazon has been on the fashion trail since as early as 2006 when it first acquired online retail website SHOPBOP. In 2011 it launched MyHabit, another online retail website created “in response to customers’ desires to shop intelligently from a selection of great brands”.

In 2012 it really took a leap of faith, opening a huge Brooklyn photography studio, hiring Barneys’ Fashion Director as an advisor and launching My Fashion on the Amazon website, a section dedicated to all things fashion. The following year saw the launch of East Dane, an equivalent to SHOPBOP targeting the male market.

Barneys NYC

Amazon pulled out all of the stops, even hiring Barneys’ NYC fashion director to advise on all things fashion!

Louis Vuitton on Amazon?

So has Amazon attracted any high fashion brands?

Well, not as yet, unfortunately! Designers such as Louis Vuitton have been reluctant to create an association with Amazon, preferring to keep their designs exclusive and prices high. In fact, the then Louis Vuitton Chief Executive, Yves Carcelle, made this perfectly clear during 2012, telling Vogue UK that “Amazon will never sell Louis Vuitton, because we are the only ones that sell it.

LV

“Amazon will never sell Louis Vuitton”…

In 2015, the Chief Marketing Officer of Amazon’s fashion division explained to Business of Fashion that they were not targeting designer brands, confirming that “there has been a lot of speculation on us entering the luxury market and that is just not something we’re focused on right now.

So which brave brands have been enticed by Amazon? Well, high profile designers such as Zac Posen and Kate Spade are both available on the US site, whilst Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss can also all be purchased via amazon.com. Amazon also has a partnership with department store giants Debenhams. So whilst many designer brands may have thus far resisted Amazon’s call, Zac Posen can hardly be considered downmarket (especially not when a handbag could set you back $595!).

Lacoste

…but it will sell Lacoste!

The mission continues

Not one to be defeated, Amazon has continued to try and develop its fashion credentials, sponsoring the first ever New York Men’s Fashion Week held in July 2015, and the OCFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund Fashion Show held during October 2015.

Vogue

All about British Vogue

It has also partnered with up and coming British model Suki Waterhouse, marketing her favourite Autumn/Winter pieces that are all purchasable on Amazon, whilst East Dane has launched a new Michael Kors collection dedicated to ‘streamlined accessories’.

October 2015 saw the purchase of the new season of the fashion based reality show ‘The Fashion Fund’. The show features none other than fashion royalty Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg, and a dedicated section on the Amazon website will be set up to sell a collection of the 2015 finalists’ designs.

The new Prime Now service may also be a step towards the coveted fashion elite, with customers able to buy clothing and accessories with one and two hour delivery slots.

The future…

It’s clear that Amazon has increased its efforts to become a fashion destination, and there appears to be no sign yet that it will be slowing down any time soon. So whilst you may have to currently shop elsewhere for your Chanel handbag or Louboutin heels, there may be a time very soon when you can buy these alongside your books, DVDs and CDs, perhaps even by drone delivery!

Chanel

Wonder what Coco would think about her legacy brand being potentially bought alongside groceries?!

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Pants Down at Black Forest Games!

After regrettably buying my husband a PS4 for Christmas, I thought it was about time I posted for all of the gamers out there, but of course maintaining a fashion link!

This week’s post focuses on Black Forest Games’ unsuccessful EU Trade Mark (EUTM) application for DIESELSTÖRMERS after opposition from the Diesel clothing brand.

The folks at Black Forest said “the decision caught us with our pants down” and issued the following photograph. At least the brand hasn’t lost its sense of humor!

Dieselstormers

That’s one way to respond to an EUTM application opposition!

All about the game

Dieselstörmers is a computer game, described as combining “roguelike action with 3D graphics and lots of old-school run ’n’ gun action”. In all honesty, this doesn’t mean a great deal to me, but hopefully it resonates with the hardcore gamers!

Black Forest Games, apart from its witty press releases, is an independent game studio that was established in 2012. The studio’s HQ is in Offenburg, Germany. You can find out more here.

Diesel is a well known mid-end clothing label, and sells its goods across the world. Not a brand you would typically associate with gaming!

Diesel

Diesel, a brand you would ordinarily associate with gaming?!

Matter of fact

Diesel S.P.A. owns two EUTMs for DIESEL, which gives the brand protection across all 28 Member states for goods like clothing, shoes and accessories, but surprisingly also covers things like electronic games, game systems, DVDs and computers among others.

Black Forest Games applied to register DIESELSTÖRMERS as an EUTM in April 2014 for goods including DVDs and CDs for computer or video games. The studio also made it clear that their DIESEL reference was to the fuel, and not an ode to fashion in any way.

Diesel opposed this application in July 2014 on the grounds that allowing the application would create a strong likelihood of confusion between its DIESEL mark and the DIESELSTÖRMERS mark.

Confusing

Diesel opposed the DIESELSTORMERS application on the grounds of likelihood of confusion with its well established brand

Black Forest Games expected to be able to settle amicably with Diesel as DIESELSTÖRMERS would not in any way relate to the main wares under the Diesel brand. However, Diesel turned out to be a tough cookie and decided to formally continue with the opposition.

Decisions decisions…

The EU IPO (the regulatory body governing EUTMs) agreed with Diesel. Black Forest Games’ application was rejected. The grounds the EU IPO referred to in its decision were:

  • The goods Black Forrest Games applied for were identical or similar to Diesel’s registered goods.
  • The marks were visually, aurally and conceptually similar based on the use of the word DIESEL in both.
  • The overall impression of the sign may have led the public to believe that the goods came from the same company, or from a linked company.
Similar

Far too similar for the EU IPO’s liking!

FTL verdict

This case is a timely reminder that trade mark oppositions are fought on the basis of the goods and services for which the earlier mark is registered, not just those goods and services for which it is used.

In this case Diesel was successful because its trade mark registrations covered computer games, even though its reputation is as a clothing brand. This is why it is so important to have professional trade mark clearance searches carried out before you decide to adopt a new brand.

Pacman

Who would’ve thought, Diesel games!

Since the decision, Black Forest Games has re-branded the game in question to ROGUESTORMERS – catchy!

Until next time it’s over and out. I’m off to brush up on my FIFA skills…

Hey! Hands Off My IP! (Patents)

Have you designed the next influential thing in fashion? You might want to patent it…

Patents can be used to protect inventions. With wearable technology on the rise, patenting enables inventors to stop third parties from using their invention without permission.

Fashion bubbles New York

Wearables, like those displayed in the Fashion Bubbles exhibit in New York, are becoming ever increasingly popular, leading to a rise in patent applications!

“Perfect solution” you say? Hold your horses, there are strict requirements on what you can and can’t patent and this post will take you through those hurdles. Also, applying for a patent can be time-consuming and expensive. Doesn’t sound too appealing does it? Well the good news is that the benefits can outweigh the negatives, which this post seeks to explore…

Jump those hurdles

Patents are only available if you have invented a new product or method for doing things. In the fashion industry, this may be a design feature of the garment or a technical feature, such as drag resistance technology, for example.

Patent plate from 1879

Patents are a long established form of intellectual property protection…check out this patent plate from 1879 – retro!

One of the earliest examples of patenting in fashion technology is by Danish company Novozymes which revolutionised the traditional use of stones to create stone-washed denim effect by utilising enzymes and microorganisms to create the exact same effect on jeans. Other examples of patenting being used to protect fashion inventions include products such as Speedo’s FASTSKIN FSII swimsuit fabric and Geox’s footwear technology.

The invention itself must be new, inventive and be capable of manufacture, but what does this mean?

  • New? There must be no public disclosure prior to putting through a patent application. Fashion tech company XO once deliberately designed wristbands that detect user’s emotions to not work outside the auditorium they were in. This prevented the product from becoming accessible to the public in any way, which would have affected their patent application.
  • Inventive? The invention must not be obvious to another person skilled in fashion design.
  • Commercialisation? The product should have the ability to be made in any kind of industry.
Brand new

Gotta be brand new baby!

This means that aesthetic creations, designs or logos, such as the iconic Louis Vuitton symbol, cannot be patented. Instead, a trade mark application could be pursued. For more info on trade marks, see my post on trade marks in the “Hey Hands off my IP!” series here.

Another often over-looked point is that it’s not usually possible to patent software. Software is protected by copyright in the UK. Here’s some more information on copyright from the series.

Sounds great – my invention fits the bill! How do I register a patent?

This is where the fun begins! Unlike copyright, patents need to be registered. Applications have to be made to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the territory or territories in which you want patent protection (usually wherever you are trading) and will require the following details, among others:

  1. a written description of the invention;
  2. drawings;
  3. claims that precisely set out the distinctive technical features of your invention; and
  4. an abstract that explains all of the important technical aspects of your invention.
A lot of 500 to 700 nm of exquisite light strewn across a pixelated matrix in linear crisscrossing fashion for your optical eye's delight and your mind's eye's respite

Fash tech’s 700m of exquisite light sewn into fabric for the eye’s delight!

Once the application has been processed, the IPO compiles a search report to investigate and assess if the invention is new and inventive, which can take up to 6 months! If all of the formal requirements are met, the application will be published approximately 18 months after filing.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there…

Patent pending

It’s a long old process, so be prepared to wait!

Within 6 months of publication, more forms will need to be submitted along with an additional fee requesting a substantial examination for any changes required and this is reported back. If all of the application requirements met, the IPO will then grant your patent, publish your final application form and send you a certificate. Hurrah!

How long does a patent last for?

Patents can be granted for up to 20 years, but have to be renewed regularly during the 20 years, incurring a further fee! The first renewal is due 4 years after the date the patent was filed, and then annually. However, as always, there is a price to pay. This ranges from £70 for the first renewal to £600 for the 20th year!!

Wow, that sounds like a lot of effort – why bother with all this hassle?

Although the process to obtain and maintain a patent is long and expensive, with the right product, it is a great tool and can provide many benefits to those looking to generate a long-term investment return.

INTIMACY is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology

INTIMACY is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology. These Smart fabrics turn transparent when worn in close proximity to another person  resulting in feelings of an intimate nature! Yikes!!

In a fast-changing industry such as fashion where trends change season-by-season, it may not always be appropriate to register a patent and another form of IP protection may be better. However, with more and more start-ups looking to combine fashion and wearable technology, patenting could be very beneficial as this industry increasingly becomes mainstream, especially to prospective businesses or investors.

Patenting an invention gives you a monopoly right over your product. The mere existence of a patent application can also deter rival businesses from patenting a similar piece of technology.

Got my patent, now what?

It is your responsibility to police any unauthorised third-party use of the invention where they have manufactured, sold or imported it, not the IPO’s. It may be advisable to set up a watching service so you can keep an eye on any newly filed patent applications within the area of your invention.

Patented 1923

Keep a watch out for any potential infringements of your patent – it’s your responsibility, not the IPO’s!

A notable example of patent infringement in the fashion industry was when global retailer H&M infringed the ‘coveted bra technology’ of UK manufacturer Stretchline Holdings in a multi-million pound dispute. H&M sold bras using Fortitube technology without obtaining a licence from Stretchline Holdings. Tut tut!!

This goes to show the importance of having clearance searches carried out before applying to register a patent and also monitoring any future patents – not doing so could lead to a legal nightmare, which no one wants!

3D printing by Novabeans India 2

3D printing is also on the rise in the fashion industry – yet another form of fash tech!

Top Tips before applying for a patent?

Research, research, research – if the invention is not novel, inventive or capable of being manufactured, then the patent application will fail and your money will be wasted. Research online and through the IPO’s published patents catalogue to ensure there is nothing similar within your industry. This will not only help to ensure your invention is new, but will also ensure you don’t infringe anyone else’s patent rights.

Keep it a secret – confidentiality is crucial if a patent application is being considered. If your invention has been made accessible to the public in any way, this could seriously sabotage your application.

Secret

Ssshhh! It’s a secret – don’t spill the beans to avoid having your patent application declared invalid!

Be prepared for commitment – once your invention has been patented, it is important to analyse whether renewals are necessary and to monitor potential developments or inventions within your industry.

For more information on patents, feel free to contact me!

Data Protection – Considerations for Online Brands

The popularity of shopping online has undoubtedly made buying your favourite shoes or handbag even easier, but the ever-growing list of considerations for brands has only gotten longer! One of the main headaches is data protection.

For brands with an online presence already, or those just starting out online, a key consideration should be keeping your customers’ data safe.

Shops

Could online shopping be the end of the traditional experience?

What do I need to know?

In the UK, the Data Protection Act 1988 (DPA) contains certain obligations that anyone processing personal data must comply with. On your website, personal data will be things like your customer’s name, date of birth, address and so on. As the owner of a brand operating online, you may be considered the data controller under the DPA, and therefore the one responsible for protecting the data!

Padlock 2

Always know whether you are responsible for keeping data secure!

One of your top priorities, regardless of whether you are a data controller or data processor, should be ensuring you have privacy and cookie policies displayed clearly on your site.

What’s a Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy simply sets out what you will do with the customer data you have collected. Before gathering data, you should make customers aware of why you need this. A wise move would be to ensure you have a privacy policy clearly visible on your website, explaining to customers what data you are collecting and why.

Data should only be collected for a lawful purpose (so for the processing of those new orders flowing in!) and you should make sure you tell customers when you make any changes to why you are collecting the data.

Shopping cart area

Don’t forget to let your customers know why you are collecting their data, as well as saying “thank you” for the purchase!

You always need to ensure you collect the data securely too, and don’t keep this for longer than needed.

If you send or plan on sending marketing emails (those wonderful discount emails), you should mention this in your policy.

What’s a Cookies Policy?

Cookies are text files implanted onto customers’ hard drives, which enable you to collect information about the person such as their name, address and user preferences. You can then tailor and personalise their shopping experience, and remove annoying tasks such as requiring a customer to re-enter their details before they can shop again. That way they can shop hassle free and even faster!

Cookies

We love cookies!

Cookies can therefore be a really valuable way of finding out about your customers, and encouraging them to return to spend more! You must however make sure you get consent from your customers for the use of cookies, and so a clear cookies policy on your website is a must. This needs to explain why you are using cookies and note that customers always have to opt-in.

Don’t forget about your employees!

You should also remember that data protection applies to employees too! To help guide us through the key data protection considerations for employers and employees, I have asked Razia Begum (our super Senior Associate, specialising in employment law, at Taylor Vinters) to answer some questions that commonly crop up.

An interesting fact about Razia is that not only is she a fantastic employment lawyer, but she also completed a course in fashion design and marketing at prestigious fashion college, Central St Martins – who could therefore be better placed to talk about this?!

Razia-Begum

Introducing Razia Begum, Employment Law Extraordinaire!

FTL: So Razia, what are the main risks we should be aware of?

Razia: In this day and age data is increasingly centralised and managed digitally. Staff data (including financial and sensitive personal data), which is often not adequately protected by employers, may be more susceptible to falling into the wrong hands and being distributed for the wrong reasons.

Employers have a positive obligation to look after employees’ data and a data breach could prove costly. It may also lead to considerable reputational damage and embarrassment for the company.

If a breach does occur employees may also be able to bring claims such as breach of privacy, confidentiality and data protection law. The success of claims such as these relies largely on the degree of financial loss suffered by an employee as a result of the breach.

FTL: What should employers do?

Razia: They should set up effective data protection and fraud prevention (in relation to confidential data as well as revenue) policies, which are implemented and enforced as required. The processes and procedures within such policies should also tie into the organisation’s HR policies and provide for regular awareness training, for example, the key dos and don’ts of compliant big data usage.

Padlock 1

Employee data security is key!

Companies should also ensure they have appropriate policies in place in respect of “bring your own devices” (or BYOD) and remote working if applicable, as both of these can significantly increase the chances of a data breach.

FTL: Thanks Razia, for the stellar input! Lots to consider when looking after your employees’ data.

FTL Round-up

Although the focus should be on prevention rather than cure, in a digital world where online shopping is the norm, breaches are unfortunately almost inevitable, however big or small. Brands should also therefore have robust emergency response plans in place ready for execution should a data breach occur.

Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street

Online shopping is great, but you can’t beat the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street – or maybe that’s just me!

Data protection can be a mind-boggling subject and this post only highlights a few key taster points! So for more information on data protection feel free to get in touch via the contact me page.

Jean-Genious! Levi and Google develop jeans that text

Fashion and tech continue to merge in thrilling ways. One of the most exciting has been born out of a recent collaboration between Levi Strauss and Google.

Levi Strauss is not well-known for its tech ventures, yet there’s something about the partnership that makes perfect sense. What do the iconic denim brand and the tech super-power have in common? Simple – both brands have delivered undeniably iconic products and become global household names.

Project Jacquard aims to develop interactive fabrics that empower wearers to use their phone by simply tapping or swiping their clothes. Soon, silencing a call or sending a text message could be as easy as a shimmy or a shake!

Retro Orange Tab makes a come back this season

Retro Orange Tab makes a come back this season!

An opportunity to be present in the moment without the invasion of screens and technology is emerging and the simplicity of the production method makes it ever sweeter. How is this done? Via a standard loom, replacing the normal thread with a conductive yarn.

Such insight suggests Levi’s contribution is far more involved than may appear on the surface. The 1853 established company is the daddy of denim: it’s globally renown for its heritage Orange Tab flares to its 501 Originals! In line with this is Google’s reputation as our go-to search engine.

Levi’s presence will be a crucial factor in the credibility and design of the future product, a much-debated topic in the fash-tech sphere! Customers who might normally be put off by a function over style concept might be swung by a warranted trust in the Levi’s brand.

jacquard2x

Of course, this is just the beginning. With interactive fabric now developing into a relatively easy concept to pursue, partnerships such as Levi Strauss and Google could fuel many more similar collaborations. Might we be observing the birth of the ‘Super Jean’?

I’m setting up a fashion business: where do I start?

Establishing a fashion business can be electrifying and a roller-coaster journey. To avoid pitfalls, read on…

Think of an amazing brand name, and protect it!
A catchy brand name can make all the difference, as it’s the basis on which your business will be established and will flourish. It’s therefore crucial to first ensure your name is unique, and avoids confusion with other names already out there. Once you’re clear on this, get the brand name and any logo associated with it registered as trade marks. This will allow you to protect your brand from copycats, and safeguard the value of the goodwill you generate.

What can the quarters of a burgeoning fashion startup look like? This is the Everlane Studio in San Francisco

What can the quarters of a burgeoning fashion startup look like? This is the Everlane Studio in San Francisco

What legal structure is most suitable for you?
Three most common business structures are below:

Sole Trader: you run your business as an individual, retain all profits post tax and can employ staff. You are accountable for the business and personally responsible for any losses your business makes. For tax purposes, you are considered self-employed.
Partnership: responsibility is shared between you and your business partner (or partners). The profits of the business can be shared between all partners in the business. Each partner pays tax on their share of the profits.
Limited Liability Companies: a company is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders. The company is responsible in its own right for everything it does and its finances are completely separate from your personal finances. Any profit made by the company, after payment of corporation tax, can be distributed between the shareholders.

Have you thought about your location?
Some of the most famous start-ups have begun in a back bedroom, but as you expand you might need to relocate to an office or shop space. Space is often bought via leasehold, but don’t be too eager to sign without ensuring you fully understand and agree to the terms. A more cost effective strategy might be to trade over the web. If doing so, it’s a great idea to get expert advice on trading over the internet as there’s a whole host of complex laws and regulations surrounding this.

Make sure to do your homework before starting your fashion business, which includes having the correct contracts in place with partners or staff.

Make sure to do your homework before starting your fashion business, which includes having the correct contracts in place with partners &/or staff

Do you have the right agreements in place?
Before entering into a business relationship, you should ensure that you have all of the appropriate agreements in place. For instance, if negotiating with a third party – such as a supplier or developer – you should have signed a non-disclosure agreement to protect any confidential information you may exchange. Having the right contracts set out from the beginning is essential, particularly to avoid complexities in the event of a dispute!

For more information on setting up your business don’t hesitate to contact me.

Technology in Fashion: Fad or Future?

The appointment of Burberry’s Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts at Apple suggests the company does not simply plan to dip its toe in the fashion pool, but intends to fully submerge itself. With the current hype over the marriage of the fashion and technology industries, Sarah Simpson, Associate at Taylor Vinters and fashion law expert, asks whether the collaboration between technology and fashion will really take off, or whether it’s just the latest fad. Sarah also looks at the serious data protection implications that designers and developers of fashion-led technology need to be aware of.

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