Innovations in textile industry are protected under patent law along with improvements and enhancements. The primary requirement includes satisfying the patent eligibility requirement of the subject-matter, along with drafting of patent claims in a manner such that the patent claims are novel and inventive. The textile patents can cover a wide range of innovations developed after strategic research and development initiatives, such as, for example, but not limited to, new type of fabrics, innovative garments with features like better hygiene, new dying methods, and the like.
The rise in the technology has given rise to the number of innovations and inventions across industries. The textile industry is not far away from witnessing huge rise in the technology used for manufacturing and producing different products. Improvisation in the textile industry therefore aligns well with the intellectual property protection. The interdependence of the Intellectual property and textile industry is therefore not a creation of today, it is something that existed ever since the textile industry was born. Therefore, even if an inventor improvises to the function that a sewing machine performs or builds an entirely new sewing machine that manufactures at an unimaginable rate, it will be eligible to be patented or for the patent protection under the laws of various jurisdictions. The purpose of having the intellectual property law is to encourage innovation and invention in various different fields. It is to encourage the common mass to gain benefits and monopolize the benefits of their invention. Therefore, textile industry and intellectual property rights cannot be seen in isolation.
The innovations in textile industry are eligible for all kinds of protection depending upon the kind and requirement of the invention. There are various kinds of inventions in the textile industry that can be patented. For instance a new fabric created with new unknown technology can be protected with design patent or claim protection under patent law. In India the innovative textile fabrics can be protected under the purview of the Indian Patents Act. The fabric should be novel, involve an inventive step and should be capable of industrial application. There are many companies in India which have successfully registered their fabric as a patent for qualities of being waterproof, breathable, elastic, sweatproof, and the like.
Other kinds of protection may also include obtaining a trademark registration for the textile. The past has witnessed that trademarks function as source identifiers. Owing to the “inherently distinctive” character of the trademarks it is difficult for these textiles and fabrics to be registered as a Trademark. The user in such cases must establish the acquired distinctiveness and prior use in order to get the trademark registered.
When there is a debate regarding the protection to be granted to the textiles, it is also to be noted that the textiles and fabrics can also be copyrighted. The textile should be new and innovative in all the kinds of intellectual property protection. The textile that is useful in any manner or performs basic functions cannot be copyrighted. For instance, if a design is used for a new pair of shoes or an overcoat or a raincoat, it will be protected under the purview of copyright. Any original, non-functional design will be eligible for the protection of copyright and may be registered as a copyright. The copyright exits as and when the design of the textile is created but it is always advisable to get it registered for convenient and efficient use of the copyright. Registration of the copyright gives additional opportunities to the owner of the copyright to prevent the copyright to be infringed and also provides the right to sue the infringer or the third party in case of infringement or unlawful use of the registered copyright.
Though the practice of protecting the textile fabric as patent, copyright and trademark is permissible in India, yet these practices are not active. This means that the potential trademarks, copyrights and patents of India are going into vain because of lack of information, finances and knowledge about the same.
There are two factors the fashion industry in India still operates without the protection of the designs either under the Designs Act or the Trademarks Act or even the Patent Act. There are two factors which contribute to the functioning of the fashion industry namely “anchoring” i.e. doing fashion shows and letting people know the trend of the time and the other factor is “induced obsolescence” i.e. making the consumers believe that a cloth has worn out and is out of fashion before the actual worn out of that cloth. This has led to an incremental rise in the way the designs are imitated.
The textile industry of India has been one of the major contributors of the GDP in the year 2019. There are more than 18 major textile parks in India. It is a source of massive employment in the country and employed over 45 million people in the financial year 2019. The results of the textile industry have always been enormous in terms of contribution towards the GDP and employment and hence the government had to take action in consonance with the requirement of the industry. The government has recently announced the FDI laws that are pro for the investment in the textile industry. Though the industry has witness a spurt in the FDI worth USD 3.44 billion from April 2000 to March 2020, the government had to think of expanding this to create whole new chunk of opportunities. Various funds and policies have been released for the promotion of textiles in the country. Various funds have been allotted for the functioning of these schemes. Local for vocal has also been encouraged for the promotion of the textiles in the country. This according to the government will help in the development of cultural and regional understanding of the textiles and will in turn lead to protection of these textiles as a kind of intellectual property.
The textile industry of India has plethora of intellectual property protection available. The designers seem to be uninterested in the protection of their intellectual property rights such as the patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs. India is a country of artisans and a country of manufacturing. With the rise in the promotion of the textile industry, the government not only focuses on the development of the rise of local industries but also in the rise of protection of textiles of local industries for better financial gains for the artisans and textile industries. The current Covid-19 has definitely slowed down the economy but it is believed that the future of the textile industry will set the bar high. The textile industry looks promising. The equilibrium is set to cross the stage of demand and supply because the industry will be buoyed by the domestic and international demand. The rise of consumerism and disposable income has led to the industry experiencing a massive growth for the national as well as international textile brands such as Marks and Spencer, Zara, H&M, Guess and Next into the Indian market. The next decade will also witness a rise in the economic growth which is directly proportional to the disposable income of the consumers. Therefore the demand for the domestic textile products will lead to a strong base of a huge domestic textile market.
The rise in the textile industry should also be accompanied by the number of textile patents and textile trademarks. This can be achieved by following certain measures, including, but not limited to, advertising about the benefits of protecting textiles as patents, trademarks and copyrights, advertising about the local textile industry, running campaigns such as #vocalforlocal, spreading word about local artisans suffering to make a living, advising the NGOs to train women and men on the art of textile production be it weaving, printing, knitting etc., introducing textile as a subject in schools for the students to know its basics, helping the local artisans to form a union and open stores in malls and large shopping complexes, helping local textile industry workers establish their social media presence through Instagram, Facebook and other social media websites, encouraging the Intellectual Property lawyers to conduct campaigns and work pro-bono for the textile industry workers, establishing a cultural week in organizations to bring more respect towards the textile industry of India, and the like.