Many brands have formed strategic partnerships with one or more influential fashion bloggers in sponsorship arrangements and design collaborations. Brand-blogger collaborations can seriously add to brand engagement and awareness: the brand benefits from the blogger’s social media networks and online fame and receives positive exposure to a new audience. But to achieve the desired effect, it is important for the brand to handle the brand-blogger relationship correctly. This article contains our top six tips to help brands avoid legal issues when collaborating with bloggers.
- DEFINE THE CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP
For sponsorships or collaborations with bloggers, a contract that clearly sets out the nature and duration of the relationship and the mutual rights and obligations of the parties is a necessity. For example, any requirements by a brand that a blogger must not wear any clothing from its competitors or only wear clothes in a particular way (and not together with competitors’ brands), on certain occasions, frequency, or with a given visibility, and any sanctions for non-compliance should be proportionate and appropriate.
- CLEAR COPYRIGHT
Brands often want to use photos and/or dedicated content created by fashion bloggers they co-operate within street-style spreads in their catalogs or on their websites. The brand will usually be responsible for production and distribution of the fashion items and the brand is also likely to be best equipped to take action in case of design infringement. Brands should avoid getting into copyright-related disputes by clearing the use of materials and/or seeking the assignment of any copyright up front.
It is also important to consider copyright ownership when the collaboration involves the actual design of fashion items by the blogger in collaboration with the brand. Brands should ensure they enter into clear copyright ownership arrangements with the blogger.
- REGULATION OF VIDEOS AND PHOTOS TAKEN FROM RUNWAYS
Increasingly, brands are inviting fashion bloggers to take front-row seats at their fashion shows. In these circumstances, care must be taken because the quality of materials craeted by the show’s attendees may not necessarily meet the brand’s standards. Some luxury brands are already known for optimising their runway shows for mobile streaming. Brands should decide and communicate from the outset whether or not they will allow bloggers to take and circulate their own photos and/or videos of these runway shows and, if so, under what conditions.
- CONSIDER A FASHION BLOGGER TRADEMARK USE POLICY
It is not beyond the realms of imagination that a fashion blogger’s use of the brand’s trademark can be (or become) detrimental to, or even become an infringement of, the brand’s trademark rights. It may be worth considering a general ‘fashion blogger trademark use’ policy. Such a policy could, for instance, cover the way a blogger may describe the relationship with the brand: if the relationship is not a collaboration, for instance, then the blogger should be forbidden to describe it as such. In cases of sponsorship or collaboration agreements with fashion bloggers, it is advisable to include a trademark use policy in the agreement, controlling proper use of trademarks.
- BEAR IN MIND POSSIBLE VAT IMPLICATIONS WHEN ITEMS ARE SENT TO BLOGGERS FOR FREE
It is common for brands to provide bloggers with free items of clothing and accessories in the hope that a dedicated blog post will follow. Given that no remuneration is received from the bloggers in return, there may be an expectation that no VAT obligation for the brands arises. However, this is not always the case. For VAT purposes, the provision of free items may be treated as supplies of goods (so-called “deemed supplies”), and may be subject to VAT in the hands of the grantor (here, the relevant brand). For gifts of low value or samples/promotional items, no VAT is due. When gifts are frequently provided to the same bloggers, it is advisable to verify with local lawyers to make sure the brand is compliant with local VAT legislation.
- CHECK ADVERTISING LAWS: POSSIBLY APPLICABLE TO GIFTS AND FREE PRODUCTS
Whether or not a gift is given to a blogger with the expectation that the blogger will provide positive coverage in return, the brand needs to be aware that in some jurisdictions the blogger, and even the brand, is required by advertising laws to disclose the gift. Here transparency is key. An elegant solution might be for the brand to provide the gift together with a note asking the blogger to thank the brand for having provided the gift in a dedicated blog post, to help the brand avoid breaching any applicable advertising rules.