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In the United States, the establishment of copyright protection for fashion designs and patterns has been a struggle that has only partially been successful. Protections available under design patent, trademark, and trade dress law only provide insufficient protection to fashion designs. Since the Star Athletica v. Varsity decision, it is clear that fashion patterns enjoy sufficient protection under copyright law. In the European Union and in Germany, the intellectual property protection capital of Europe, fashion designs enjoy much greater protection than in the United States. This paper uses a comparative approach to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of providing more protection to argue that fashion designs should be granted protection even though they are intrinsically utilitarian, and to issue recommendations as to specific principles and elements that must be included in any legislation to introduce protection.


This article was awarded the second place in Cornell Law Library's Robert Cantwell Prize for Exemplary Student Research in 2021. It was subsequently published in vol. 102, no. 3 of the Journal of the Patent & Trademark Office Society (2022).