Sustainable fashion: upcycling, recycling, second life and what it means for trade marks

About the author: 

Hannah Burrows: Hannah is a trade mark attorney and associate at Appleyard Lees. She assists with a variety of trade mark matters – including assisting clients with devising a strategy for their trade mark portfolio, obtaining trade mark protection and trade mark maintenance. She also assists clients with obtaining registered design protection and dealing with company name disputes.

Hannah works with many start-ups as well as multinational companies in a wide range of sectors. She has a particular interest in the fashion, beauty and luxury sector and has worked with clients in these areas to expand their scope of IP protection.

Shopping habits across the world have shifted as we make more of a conscious effort to consume less and buy better. People are focusing more on sustainable initiatives such as upcycling, recycling and repurposing damaged, used or unwanted goods.

Being based in Manchester, I am pleased to see local initiatives supporting local communities as well as the wider schemes which are available throughout the UK. Local projects include The Renew Hub, based in Trafford Park, which is a joint initiative between R4GM (Recycle for Greater Manchester), and SUEZ UK, which cleans, repairs and upcycles items such as furniture and homeware. These are then given a new home. Manchester Upcycle is another initiative offering these services.

For fashion lovers such as myself, StitchedUp, which is a not-for-profit organisation, offers communities in Manchester workshops for sewing, repairing and upcycling of clothing, giving them a new life.

Major department stores Harvey Nichols and Selfridges are also encouraging consumers to shop sustainably. Both are now offering repair and restoration services in additional to retail. Harvey Nichols is partnering with The Restory, a company specialising in aftercare for luxury fashion, who also partner with Harrods. Selfridges have in-house repair experts repairing shoes, accessories, jewellery and even Apple products.

And it is not just sustainable buying, which has taken off. The practice of renting goods is ever increasing in popularity and has changed significantly from what it once was. It used to be the case that we would think of rental as something for special occasions only, like weddings, proms, or evening wear. Now the rental market has expanded into everyday clothing. A preview at Selfridges Rental shows Canada Goose coats, après-ski clothing, as well as men’s everyday shirts and t-shirts. Other rental platforms such as Hurr (which is also based in Selfridges’ physical store on Oxford Street) even has nightwear to be rented, including luxury sleepwear brand, Daily Sleeper.

With these expanded service offerings and partnerships, brands should consider reviewing whether their existing trade mark protection is sufficient to cover these services or whether new, updated trade mark applications need filing. For example, Class 35 for retail services in general would not encompass these repair or rental services mentioned above. As brands have to be quick to adapt in an everchanging retail landscape, retailers may also find that their product or service ranges have also extended since the last trade mark application was filed. This may only have been a few years ago, but it would be beneficial for owners to take the opportunity to reflect on their brand strategy for the next few years.

For cobranding or partnerships, brands may wish to review whether suitable agreements are in place – even if the partnerships are for a limited time. It is important to consider whether it is appropriate for one brand to own the trade marks or whether co-ownership is more appropriate. Is there a written agreement in place regarding usage of marks and branding, and what happens when a business relationship is terminated?

These are some considerations for brand owners when embarking on new ventures. We are happy to assist with advising on trade mark portfolios and agreements.

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