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Friday, March 07, 2014

Fashion Industry Leaders Dish on the Law, in High Style

Actionable advice: “Never carry a counterfeit handbag to an interview with a ‘real’ designer.”
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Q&A at the UC Hastings Fashion Law Symposium, Feb. 28, 2014.

Some of the best-dressed and brightest minds in fashion law came together Feb. 28 at a red-carpet symposium hosted by UC Hastings’ new Fashion, Art & Design Law Society.

The daylong event drew scholars and practitioners from around the country, including industry leaders who founded the profession. And they had the Powerpoints and polished looks to prove it.

Susan Scafidi (@CounterfeitChic), founder and president of the Fashion Law Institute and a professor of law at Fordham Law School, delivered a rapid-fire state-of-the-industry address. Susan Scafidi, centerScafidi has been called the “senior stateswoman” of the fashion bar, and is credited with honing fashion law into a distinct legal field.

She talked about IP cases early in her career and being ridiculed by a federal judge for “wasting” his court time with a dispute between two designers. Things have changed. The U.S. apparel industry was valued at $338 billion in 2012, and accounts for some of the most cutting-edge intellectual property decisions.

Louboutins and Wearables

The speakers highlighted current industry trends, including a spirited discussion of “wearables,” apparel and accessories, such as watches, that incorporate computer and advanced electronic technologies.

San Francisco is at the heart of the West Coast design world, with longtime apparel companies such as Levi Strauss & Company and more current global brands, such as GAP, as well as scores of thriving solo designers who have found success in the global marketplace. The latest “wearables” were also born here, including Fitbit and Google Glass.

Speakers included Keanan Duffty (@KeananDuffty), Senior Director of Fashion Merchandising at the Academy of Art University and himself an accomplished and witty designer. He shared some of his more memorable and sometimes humorous cease-and-desist letters, leaving the standing-room only audience laughing out loud.

Staci Riordan (@staciriordan), a partner at Fox Rothschild, has been in the fashion industry since she was a child, as her mother had her own fashion business. She delivered a second keynote address. She teaches Fashion Law at her alma mater, Loyola Law School, and serves as Executive Director of its Fashion Law Institute. Watch her keynote here.

Industry Influence on the Law

The retail industry has also led to some of the most hotly contested employment law issues in recent years, including the rampant use of unpaid interns, discrimination against store employees regarding standards of dress, and safety concerns about apparel factories overseas and U.S. liability for workplace standards there.

Longtime intellectual property attorney Barbara Kolsun gave a history of the mergers and acquisitions in the industry as she recounted her long career, which began in the 1980s. She has worked for seemingly every brand, has a particular depth in denim, and now is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Stuart Weitzman Holdings, the luxury shoe designer and manufacturer, based in New York.

The diminutive Kolsun packed a punch with her dry wit and self-deprecating stories about the often unglamorous fashion world. “You will never get rich,” she told the crowd. “I’m still working.”

Alumni, Faculty Presenters

Several UC Hastings alumni were among the star-studded panels, including Karen Frank ’87, a partner at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass in San Francisco. Her practice focuses on copyright, trademark, unfair competition, advertising, privacy, right of publicity, internet and publishing issues.

Alumna Ali Marquart (@model_esq) '10 is a transactional lawyer with her own firm, Marquart & Small. Prior to founding her firm, she was Director of Business and Legal Affairs for Wilhelmina Models, one of the most influential model management companies in the world.

Uduak Oduok ’01, (@uduaklaw) partner and co-founder of Ebitu Law Group, represents fashion clients, including U.S. designers and manufacturers. Oduok, Marquart and Frank spoke on a panel about social media and fair use.

Dana BeldimanLongtime UC Hastings Professor in Residence Dana Beldiman, a partner with Carroll, Burdick & McDonough in San Francisco, spoke on design patents in the apparel industry, along with Mark Lemley, Stanford University Professor of Law, and several other speakers.

Panels also included well-known in-house counsel, including Tom Onda, longtime Chief Counsel of the Levi’s Brand and Global Intellectual Property. Social media experts such as Laurie Mueller, product manager at Facebook, helped provide a lay-person’s perspective.

Live tweets from the event flew fast and furious. You see those at #FashionLawSymposium.

Fashion, Art & Design Law Society

The society’s aim is to introduce and foster discussion on applications of business law and intellectual property protection to the particular conditions and practices that occur in the fashion industry. The society was founded by 3L Ashli Weiss (@AshliWeiss). You can reach more about Weiss and the society here. Full agenda of the symposium here.

Additional photos from the symposium and after-party here.

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