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Ain't nothing like the real thing. A sea of counterfeit/pirated luxury handbags. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

With accusations and lawsuits against copycat designers becoming more rampant with each passing year, New York Senator Charles Schumer is introducing a new law that spells out American designers' intellectual property rights for the first time.

The Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act, which Schumer expects to be passed this fall, offers intellectual property protection to designs on apparel, footwear, and accessories that are deemed unique and original.

The act, which was negotiated with members of the fashion industry for over a year, is supported by the CFDA and the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).

"We have worked closely, under the leadership of Senator Schumer, with the AAFA and the industry to create a law that will provide long overdue protection our industry deserves," CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb said in a statement.

"America is the world fashion leader, and yet it is basically the only industrialized country that does not provide protection for fashion design. This bill is good news in that it promotes creativity and thus strengthens the fashion industry's significant contribution to a healthy and working economy.

"When the CFDA originally launched the campaign to bring intellectual property protection to fashion design, our goal was to give a new generation of American designers the recognition and support they need to grow their businesses into household names," Kolb said.

If passed, the bill would provide protection to new and original designs for three years after they were first introduced to the market (i.e., sent down the runway), and the only copycat designs prohibited by the law have to be deliberate copies that are "substantially identical" to original designs.

According to the New York Times, color, pattern, and graphic elements won't be considered unique design elements, but other aspects like the shape of a garment or the slope of a shoulder would -- as long as it was an original design in the first place.

To discourage lawsuits, the act will also set out strict guidelines that the plaintiff must establish that his or her design is completely original and the defendant will be given a chance to prove that his or her design was created independent from the protected design. (All designs created prior to when the bill passes will go unprotected.)

Retailers and consumers who inadvertently buy or sell the illegal goods will not be liable nor will sewers at home who copy and create a protected design for themselves or for a family member.

Of course, protection against fakes isn't just a U.S. concern. See what French designer Christian Louboutin is doing to fight knockoffs of his famously red-soled shoes.