What to do when someone steals your Halloween costume (or other) design

Halloween is nearly upon us. Do you have your costume picked out? Bloomberg reports that more than $3 billion will be spent just on costumes for the spooky event this year. With so much money at stake, designers and manufacturers of unique home décor items, treats and costumes hold on tight to their creations, protecting them from copycats.

Banana suit wars

Banana costumes are a popular commodity this time of year. Costume manufacturer Rasta Imposta has filed a lawsuit against Kmart in order to assert its exclusive rights to its banana suit design. Allegations filed against Kmart include:

  • Copyright infringement
  • Trade dress infringement
  • Unfair competition

Kmart purchased their banana costumes from Rasta Imposta for nearly 10 years. This year, however, Kmart decided to purchase its banana suits from another vendor. While there are many types of banana costumes available on the market, Rasta Imposta claims that Kmart’s new version is very similar to its own. The model used in Kmart’s advertising is even dressed similarly.

Legal protection for your creations

While the Rasta Imposta lawsuit involves large entities, this kind of infringement happens often on a much smaller scale. This is a particularly important issue for new designers, whether you design costumes, clothing, accessories or something else.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your intellectual property from copycats, including:

1. Document everything: During the process of creating a unique business or product idea, keep careful notes. That documentation can help prove that the idea was yours.

2. Stay diligent: Look for illegal uses of your intellectual property, and take action to protect it once an instance of copying or theft is found. Failing to pursue your rights can work against you.

3. Consult an attorney: An experienced intellectual property lawyer will help you identify the most effective means to protect what’s yours, whether through licensing or registering a trademark, copyright or patent.

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