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Trademark Issues: Brooklyn Bar hosts fashion lawyers for CLE

October 26, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Biana Borukhovich, Pamela Weinstock, Theodore C. Max and Busaya Olupona were guests of the Brooklyn Bar Association at a CLE seminar on the role of trademarks in the fashion industry. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese.
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The Brooklyn Bar Association made a fashion statement when it hosted four lawyers for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar titled “The Role of Trademarks in the Fashion Industry: Protecting Your Brand in Style” on Remsen Street Thursday night.

“For tonight’s event, we have some of the best people in the industry who were some of my mentors when I was in law school studying fashion law,” said moderator Biana Borukhovich. “The kind of information you will get from these people, you will not be able to get anywhere else. I picked the best.”

Borukhovich was joined by attorneys Theodore C. Max, a partner at Sheppard Mullin; Pamela Weinstock, associate general counsel to Kenneth Cole; and Busaya Olupona, an attorney who also has her own label — Busaya NYC.

There are several different areas that can be covered in fashion law, so the panelists focused on the role of the trademark and why it is so important for companies.

“A trademark can be a variety of things, and in its simplest form a trademark it is usually a symbol,” Max said. “If anyone is familiar with Bass Ale — that is one of the oldest trademarks. It’s a red triangle and you can even see it in one of Monet’s paintings. A trademark is something that when you see it, it is inherently distinctive. Just the mark itself — that’s a lower standard; but when you get into color and trade dress, it [has a] secondary meaning.”

“I would say that most of the industry would feel that it’s the most integral and the top asset of the company,” Weinstock said. “What you have is the work and your brand. That’s what consumers will recognize you by and it’s considered very important to protect that in order to really establish yourself.”

Olupona started her Busaya NYC label about four years ago. While Max and Weinstein brought with them decades of experience working with some of the biggest fashion names, Olupona had the unique perspective of the owner of a small business just starting out. For instance, while she agreed with Weinstein that trademarks are one of the top assets a company has, she suggested that designers starting out don’t need to necessarily rush to trademark their name.

“Some of the considerations, to me, are different when you are small and trying to sell a garment or the first 1,000 garments,” Olupona said. “Being a small brand is not cheap, and I think that’s something that gets lost in a conversation about what it means to scale a fashion brand. It’s not an easy business to enter into and I think a lot of that stuff gets lost.”

The seminar was the final CLE seminar of the month for the Brooklyn Bar Association. It’s next session will take place at the Hill Center at St. Joseph’s College on Monday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. with attorney Dewey Golkin hosting.

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