Intellectual Property in the limelight for fashion retailers

A number of recent court cases surrounding intellectual property and the fashion industry have encouraged retailers to take to international law firms to look after their brands. Recent developments have ranged from cases on whether a store design and layout can be trademarked, copycat packaging where a product gets ‘passed off’ as another to parody social media accounts of household brands.

Clarks is the most recent retailer to announce the appointment of global law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP to manage its entire Intellectual Property portfolio, with over 1200 trademarks and patents.

The shoe manufacturer and retailer, which has been crafting footwear since 1825, is now one of the UK’s largest private companies. Last year the company made a profit of £163 million on sales of £1,541 million, more than half of which came from abroad. With over 15,000 staff members worldwide, the company now has 25 stand-alone stores in India and relaunched in China with 400 outlets in partnership with local footwear retailers. Clarks has grown steadily in recent years, adding an average of 100 stores a year to its existing chain of 1,400 shops. The footwear brand also announced this week that it will open its first ever men’s pop up store in late October in Seven Dials, London.

This appointment is in line with the company’s overall growth strategy. Clarks’ brand is at the core of the company’s products and retail offerings. In times of innovative retail offerings, from pop-up stores to international partnerships, Clarks has now put added strength behind their intellectual property.

This appointment of Squire Patton Boggs reflects the firm’s increasing breadth of fashion retail clients. These include Cath Kidston, DAKS, Austin Reed, Hobbs and BCBG Max Azria.

Florian Traub, a Partner in the Intellectual Property and Technology Team at Squire Patton Boggs, noted that the firm undertakes a range of work for these companies from trademark and design to distribution and franchising agreements. “We are delighted to be working with Clarks at this important time of growth for the company. Our clients face an increasing number of challenges with regards to their intellectual property, from battling counterfeit products to adapting their international trademark portfolio to match their distribution channels. Intellectual Property management is therefore essential as retailers further develop their offerings abroad,” Mr Traub said.

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