When the fashion industry collaborates with new technologies…


window-213496_1920The fashion and design industry is gradually turning to new technologies. Designers use more and more innovative techniques in their products. What are the legal means that should be implemented to protect and defend immaterial capital, widely present in this sector?


The development of interactive clothing

In recent years, many ready-made clothing brands have used advanced technologies in their products or fashion shows such as 3D printing, augmented reality or even virtual reality. Thus, there is a strong development in smart clothing, also known as e-textiles.

For instance, the collaboration between Google and Levi Strauss on project Jacquard, a jacket made of a touch sensitive fabric used for interaction with one’s smartphone, without having to remove it. Reebok, the famous shoe and sportswear manufacturer, also designed an innovative shoe model, This pair of running shoes includes a 3D printed sole that focuses on performance and energy return.

Legal status of the innovation

These 2.0 clothes raise issues such as their protection and defence and the contractual framework of such designs. First of all, the legal status of these innovations should be identified. A technical approach is required because the connected device does not have a technical definition. Smart clothing might be, for example, brought together with medical devices defined in and intended for the following purposes: “1° For diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of a disease; […]3° For study, replacement or modification of the anatomy or a physiological process”. Thus, sports clothing that regulates body temperature or decreases tension are covered by this definition.

Contractual framework for innovation

The author of the innovative work should then be identified. Thus, in case a textile is created by 3D printing, the person who created it may be designated as its author, as well as the person who created the 3D file. outlines the differences between works of collaboration, composite works and collective works. Thus, the different actors involved in the creation of e-textiles must agree on the scope of their respective rights.

Furthermore, prior to the disclosure of the innovation or the execution of the project, the parties involved must sign agreements governing the confidentiality of information exchanged. Parties may further consider using partnership agreements to enhance coorperation and define the obligations of each party. Such was the case, for instance, for the collaboration between Google and Levi Strauss.

Finally, fashion designers who use innovative technology must properly define the scope of their rights over the product designs so as not to overlook their protection.