India is among the world’s largest producers and the sixth-largest exporter of Textiles and Apparel (“T&A”). The domestic T&A market is expected to be valued at>US$ 209 billion by 2029.1 Also, the industry contributes 2.3% to the Indian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 12% to the export revenues, and accounts for nearly 13% share of the nation’s total industrial production.2 According to a press release by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, export in the textile sector increased by 41% from April to December 2021 compared to the previous year.3 FDI in the T&A industry has also reached US$3.75 billion through March 2021.4 Such data depicts that the Indian T&A industry holds enormous potential, which should be maximized through modern technology, infrastructural development, and, most importantly, by protecting continuous innovations and creations.
The T&A industry is centered around fashion. Each season brings new fashion and style with new fabrics and designs. Each novel and/or original design comprises a significant investment of money, time, and brainpower of the designers who contributes to the development and growth of the T&A industry. Thus, the protection of such industrial designs (commonly called “designs”) is relevant to the T&A industry. Under the Design Act, 2000 (the “Design Act”), design protection grants an exclusive & monopolistic intellectual property right to create, sell, and use goods/articles to which a design is applied. Protection rights are granted for an initial ten years, which is extendible to the next five years on request. According to the Annual Report 2019-20 released by the office of the Controller General of Patents Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications,14290 Design applications were filed during the year, indicating a significant increase of 13.55% from the previous year. It is also interesting to note that the 9706 design applications originating from India contributed to 68% of the total filing. Out of these Indian applications, the highest number of applications were filed in Class 02 for Articles of clothing & haberdashery, amounting to 1275. In addition, 591 applications were filed in Class 05 for Textile piece goods, artificial and natural sheet material, respectively.
Sabyasachi Couture (571), RelaxoFootwears Ltd. (216), and Siddhi Vinayak Knots & Prints Pvt. Ltd. (210) stood as the top three Indian filers in the country.5 By registering a design, the owner can prevent unauthorized users from commercializing the protected design comprising aesthetically unique shape, configurations, ornamental or exquisite features, patterns whether it is three-dimension (3D) two-dimension (2D) features such as garments, artistically graceful textile prints comprising the different composition of lines, or colours, or combinations.
Although a significant increment in design applications is seen, however, considering the gigantic domestic T&A industry and its immense potential, the scope of increasing the number of design protection is relatively high compared to present filings. Design registration is generally seen as a cumbersome process, and designers think of it as an additional financial burden. Despite the designers’ substantial investment, there are instances where they rarely use design legislation to register and protect their creativity. But busting the myth and the truth to be told, given the domestic resources invested in developing a novel design, the design protection is essential, cost-effective, and not a financial burden. The design registration system is time-bound and quickest in India among all intellectual property registration procedures.
The next challenge for the designers is to determine whether designs come under the purview of protection offered by the Copyright or Design Act. Under the Copyright Act, 1957 (the “Copyright Act”), the artistic work related to printings/designs/patterns etched or imprinted on textiles/fabrics/apparel/garments are protected.