A US trade group has spoken out against the expected re-introduction of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which it said would "stifle the creativity that drives the fashion industry forward."

In a letter submitted yesterday (27 April) to the US Congress, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) claimed the legislation "would require legitimate producers to navigate through new burdensome processes to get their garments and shoes to market."

The main aim of the bill is to provide high-end fashion designs with three-year copyright protection. 

But the AAFA fears it actually goes much further.

As currently written, it says, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act would create legal ambiguity in the fashion industry by utilising a "closely and substantially similar" standard for infringement.

And it would automatically extend ownership rights of a design without any test to determine if such rights are merited.

While prohibiting the protection of all fashion items that previously existed, the legislation allows for the protection of these same "non-original elements" if arranged in an original way.

It would also provide an opportunity for one designer to maintain a monopoly on any "trend" for three years.

"The essential driver of fashion is inspiration," said AAFA president and CEO Kevin M Burke. "And this bill outlaws inspiration."

"This legislation would put companies like ours at great risk of potential litigation if anyone feels our legitimate designs are too similar to theirs," added AAFA board of directors' chairperson Carol J Hochman, CEO of Triumph Apparel Marketing. 

"When you make work-out and performance clothing like we do, the risk is high. This risk would be thrust onto every producer and brand in the apparel and footwear industry."

First introduced in April 2007, this bill was never passed into law.