Almost exactly three years ago, we had an article noting how many in the fashion industry, unlike the entertainment industry, had realized that a lack of intellectual property protection actually benefited them. While big name designers saw cheap knockoffs hit the shelves quickly, that only helped to drive more innovation. The designers would keep on innovating, trying to outdo each other, while building up their own brand reputation -- which would justify some of the premium they charged for the "genuine article" (quality also plays a role in the price -- the knockoffs generally aren't nearly as well made). Many in the industry seemed to admit that it helped drive creativity and innovation -- which seems like a great result. Unfortunately, however, some fashion designers have moved in the wrong direction since then. Last summer we had an article about how some designers were increasingly getting upset about the knockoff issue. It seems like this year it's gone one step further. David Levine alerts us to a Wall Street Journal article about those in the industry now pushing for a change to copyright laws that would allow fashion designers to copyright their clothing designs. As people in the article note, this would have the effect of slowing down fashion innovation, because designers wouldn't have to continue innovating. That's the opposite goal of the intellectual property system -- yet very few people seem willing to point this out. If you subscribe to the theory (as many people do) that the government should only intervene in markets where there is a clear market failure that needs to be corrected, then you have to question why this law would ever make sense. You have what is clearly a competitive industry that is making a ton of money and continues to thrive and innovate at a rapid pace. That's great. Now, people want to introduce additional government regulation to slow down the rate of innovation by letting those already at the top of the market stop innovating and rest on their laurels. That doesn't sound good for the overall industry, consumers or the economy.
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