This Q&A was prepared for and first featured in the Financial Times

QUESTION

I run a small wedding design shop in London which supplies clothes to retail outlet throughout London. We are receiving a number of requests for Kate Middleton inspired dresses. I have also been asked by several clients to copy the dress exactly. Am I allowed to do this?

ANSWER

Every woman wants to be a princess on her wedding day and it is no surprise that brides to be are taking inspiration from Kate Middleton’s dress, however, a level of caution is to be advised. While the individual elements of the dress, for example, the sweet heart neckline, lace top, full skirt and train have been constitute features of wedding dresses for many years and on their own would not infringe any rights, this does not mean that the combination of these elements by Sarah Burton to create her design will not potentially be protected by design law.  

There can often be a fine line between inspiration and copying and the determination as to how close is too close, will be assessed on whether the appearance of the whole or part of your dress makes the same overall impression as Kate Middleton’s dress or reproduces a substantial part. Due to the generic nature of the individual elements used in the royal wedding dress, any subsisting design rights would be narrow, therefore, while the overall concept of the dress could be replicated with relative comfort, an exact copy is more likely to result in exposure to claims and is advised against.

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