Two years ago, we suggested that the entertainment industry could learn a lot from the fashion industry concerning the issue of intellectual property and the "threat" of people copying ideas. That story included the great quote: "Ideas arise, evolve through collaboration, gain currency through exposure, mutate in new directions, and diffuse through imitation. The constant borrowing, repurposing, and transformation of prior work are as integral to creativity in music and film as they are to fashion." It also noted that the fashion industry didn't seem to worry too much about knockoffs, but focused on (1) the ability to keep designing newer and better offerings and (2) the importance of brand building -- as people are willing to pay more for the real thing than a knockoff. The NY Times is now visiting this same issue, and, if anything, it looks like the fashion industry may be heading in the wrong direction -- with more people talking about lawyers and patents on designs and things like that. Fortunately, it looks like many developers realize that's not the best way to go, and are focused on continuing to design better products. In fact, as you read through the piece, one of the more amusing things to note is that each of the designers complaining of copies did so only after they became a big success. Take, for example, this story: "After the actress Cameron Diaz was seen wearing one of Ms. Burns's Faithfull bags last year, Ms. Burns became the "it" girl of fashion accessories. Sales of her products doubled in one month. Soon, however, imitation Faithfulls flooded the Internet and the streets of Chinatown in New York." Sales doubled. That's a good thing. Her products were in demand. Yes, certainly those sales may have later dropped due to the knockoffs, but sales drop for a variety of reasons, especially in the fashion world as things go, well, out of fashion. The best quote in the article, though, goes to Allen B. Schwartz of A.B.S.: "When you are talking about fashion, lose the word original. Ask the small designers where they got their inspiration. They pull their inspiration from others.... You don't sit by the window and wait for it to materialize."
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