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Fashion Week eBulletin: ‘see-now-buy-now’ and the Consumer Rights Act, shop workers’ rights and an increase in IP protection

23 February 2017

In our latest eBulletin, we discuss the legal implications for designers and consumers of the ‘see-now-buy-now’ model, changes to shop workers’ rights to opting out of working on Sundays and an increase in IP protection.

Fast fashion: the implications of ‘see-now-buy-now’ at London Fashion Week

While London Fashion Week may have showcased the latest trends for the coming season, this year many brands experimented with a ‘see-now-buy-now’ format, shaking up the current fashion show calendar.

In a move that diverges from the rigid structures imposed by the fashion week schedule, designers including Tom Ford and Burberry, allowed clothes from the show to be instantly available to buy, both online and in store, as opposed to previewing their wares six months before they land on the high street.

On top of this, social media means images of the collections have never been easier to access. This is reflected in designers coming under increasing pressure not just to make their clothes sellable but ‘instagrammable’. There is a feeling among those in the industry that these fashion ‘moments’, as Burberry’s Christopher Bailey calls them, need to be capitalised on and the clothes that feature in shows and presentations need to be available to consumers before the moment passes.

So the pace at which fashion is being created, presented, bought and discarded is speeding up; things are going out of fashion and becoming irrelevant even faster than they used to. But how does this interact with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which aims to slow down the process of consumer activity, giving consumers increased rights to return goods over a longer period of time?

A consumer now has a right to reject goods that fail to meet any of the applicable quality standards within a 30-day period. Previously, a consumer could reject goods within a ‘reasonable period’ which usually meant 7 or 14 days. The impact of the statutory lack of discretion and almost certainly increased time periods imposed by the Act could be significant.

If the point of the changes being made by fashion designers and houses is to speed up the pace at which their products are being consumed, then increased rights to return could slow this down to such an extent that the proposed changes have very little effect in reality. By the time a consumer returns the goods a month later, the moment will have passed, and retailers will have the same problem shifting out of date stock that they have currently.

The impact on small and medium sized businesses would be the greatest, but it is something that all brands looking to adopt this model should be considering and discussing.

Don’t get caught out on a Sunday: important changes to working rights for shop workers

Changes to shop workers’ rights to opt out of working on Sundays, as part of the Enterprise Act 2016, will mean retailers will need to start preparing now.

Under the Act, there will be reduced notice periods for shop workers in large shops to opt out of working on Sundays and a new right for shop workers to opt out of working additional Sunday hours. Furthermore, failing to inform existing employees and new recruits of these rights may lead to reduced notice periods and compensation awards in the tribunal.

Although it is not known when the changes will come into effect, employers will need to ensure they have adequate staffing levels for Sundays and that employees are properly informed as to their new rights. In line with the current law, retailers will not be able to object to an employee’s notice to opt out of Sunday working hours or additional Sunday working hours. Shop workers can claim automatic unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for opting out and they are protected against other forms of detrimental treatment.

It is important to note that “shop workers” for purposes of the legislation relates to employees and not to the broader category of “workers” or agency staff. Shop workers, who are only employed to work on Sundays, are excluded from opting out of Sunday working.

Read the article in full here.

Increases in IP protection – in Europe and at Harbottle

Protection for IP rights holders has increased, following the implementation of the Trade Marks Directive and Regulation in March 2016.

The Regulation introduced further measures to tackle anti-counterfeiting, including the ability for rights holders to take action in respect of counterfeit goods brought into the EU, even if they are not intended to be sold there and are only in transit. This is of particular help to luxury brand owners.

There is also a continuing trend towards providing assistance to rights owners online, and marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon are becoming increasingly proactive in policing infringing content.

We have had two recent additions to our IP team.

Georgy Evans joined the firm in September 2016 as a partner. She specialises in brand related portfolio management and trade mark law, including offering expert advice on brand strategy. She has more than 20 years’ experience, including working at a start-up consulting business and as head of trade marks at a FTSE top 10 company.

Jenni Woolf joined Harbottle & Lewis in August 2016. She advises a variety of clients, from start-ups to large international corporations on a range of disputes involving intellectual property and related rights. She has experience acting for clients in fashion, product design and the leisure and retail sectors.

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