This Note examines how rings fit into the copyright system as sculptural pieces not subject to the separability test under the useful articles doctrine. It focuses exclusive on rings, as they seemingly possess numerous functions; they have been used for mystical purposes, portable bank accounts, and as a signal of socially meaningful codes. Moreover, since jewelry designers consider functional features in the design process, should rings be treated as useful articles? After examining the purposes of the Copyright Act and conversing at length with designers, this Note concludes that rings are more of an art form. Although jewelry designers are limited by a finger’s constraints, they employ a great deal of artistic creativity in expressing a message though the details of a ring.
Since the beginnings of the modern fragrance industry, fragrance manufacturers have relied on secrecy to protect information about distillation techniques, product composition, and other elements of the production process. In the last century, however, increases in employee mobility and improvements to reverse engineering techniques have undermined the fragrance industry’s reliance on trade secrecy to protect its proprietary information. Patents and copyrights are similarly of limited efficacy as a means of protecting this information. Fragrance manufacturers may have some recourse in trademark and unfair competition law, however, specifically in the context of multisensory trade dress.
By focusing on the recent fashion warfare over the red sole used on luxury shoes, this Article reconsiders the implications of trademark protection of single color marks for regulating the development of the fashion industry and the cultural evolution of human society. Courts and commentators have focused on the role of the aesthetic functionality doctrine in deciding whether Christian Louboutin’s red sole mark should be protected by trademark law. This Article takes a different approach. It calls for a social justice–based re-examination of whether the red sole mark is distinctive enough to warrant trademark protection.
Based on a close look at the distinctiveness of the red sole mark, the Article puts forward a social justice mandate that should be incorporated into trademark law. It contends that social justice should have the trumping power to deny trademark protection of marks even if they are adequately distinctive. It also shows how the new mandate resonates with the equality-oriented protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Article further addresses practical concerns for implementing the mandate and discusses its merit in solving the problems caused by the aesthetic functionality doctrine.
In recent years, politicians, academics, and industry professionals have argued vehemently that copyright protection should extend to cover fashion designs, which are currently excluded under the “useful articles” doctrine. Copyright in the United States is built on economic principles and aims to incentivize innovation. After reviewing the legislative history and other arguments made by proponents of fashion copyright, a different picture emerges: supporters of fashion copyright view fashion as “art” and feel a sense of harm when it is cheaply or slavishly copied. Even if designers feel no economic harm from the copying of their creations, they are morally harmed by it. Perhaps then moral rights law, not copyright, provides the appropriate theoretical framework in which to analyze the extension of further protections to fashion design.
The current debate over increased protection for fashion design is largely focused on whether additional protection is necessary or if it is actually counter-productive for the industry. The proper contrast is between protection of authorship versus protection of reputation. David Faux argues that, while elite design houses enjoy some tools for protecting their reputations, beginning designers need legislation that will enable them to enforce rights based on notions of authorship.