Issues of copying in any creative enterprise have always been a concern. Handbag, jewelry and fashion design, driven by fad as they are, have critical time constraints that made the patent process impossibly restrictive. The fight to extend the protection of copyright to all fields of fashion was a long and hard fought one.
The concerns of the Handbag industry are itemized in the March 1930 editorial in "Hand Bag Modes." (page 52)
Can Designs Be Protected?
"THE Vestal Bill, proposing a plan to make the registration of designs easy, has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Vestal.
By making it almost as easy to copyright an industrial design as it now is to copyright an issue of a magazine, or a novel, the bill is intended to end the copying of one manufacturer's creations by another. At present, the only way a handbag design, for instance, can be protected, is by applying for a patent. This entails a heavy expense in lawyers' fees and official fees, and may consume months before the patent is granted. And the present idea of a patentable design is one that is completely different from anything previously brought out. The design must be unique.
Under the Vestal Bill, also known as the Design Registration Bill, a design need not be an invention to be protected, but merely a new composition—something new in effect.
In place of the high expense of a patent, the Bill would allow copyright registration for two years at a cost of only $3. For an additional $20, the copyright could be extended for eighteen years. Designs that need only short-time protection get it at a very small cost. But where the design is good for a long period, it can be protected for a very reasonable amount. And where months of delay are necessary to patent a design, the copyright plan would operate with speed.
An intolerable feature of the Bill is that it makes retailers selling copied designs responsible along with the manufacturer who did the copying. The bill hedge? by applying only to retailers who buy merchandise with the knowledge that it was copied. But nevertheless that is unfair to the retailer, for whom the business of buying is already complicated enough.
How successful the Vestal Bill will be in Congress is uncertain. It is said that there is little opposition to it, and that it is backed by many trade associations. But there is some doubt as to how effective the plan would be in operation. A handbag manufacturer might copyright a design that would be good for a number of months. But if it were copied by other manufacturers, would there be enough money involved in the design to make it worth while to bring suit?
A large portion of the handbag industry has been built on the copying principle. A popular priced house will copy handbags brought out by a quality house,, and thus make available to the country at large an attractive design at a low price. There is no doubt that the creator of a design deserves to reap the full reward for his effort. But as has been suggested here, the matter has a number of angles that need discussing and clarifying."