Giorgio Armani Realizes That Fashion Copying Isn't A Bad Thing

from the good-for-him dept

For many, many years, we've pointed to the fashion industry as a great example of a creative industry that thrives despite widespread "piracy" and greatly reduced intellectual property rights. Contrary to what copyright maximalists claim will happen in the absence of such copyrights, the fashion industry is highly competitive, highly innovative and highly creative. Also, contrary to the maximalists' claims, it hasn't "devalued" the creators at all. In fact, it's only helped to increase the value of original works by the best designers. The copycats have actually pumped up their value, rather than decreased it.

Research has shown that it's because of this lack of IP that the industry has been able to thrive. That's because it does a few things: the copycats help spread the word about the designs, getting them spread to a much wider audience than the high end fashion designers would alone. On top of that, it increases the value of authentic works by those top designers, since the reputation increases the overall value. Finally, the rapid copying pushes designers to keep innovating and keep bringing out new things, so that they're always seen on the cutting edge -- ahead of the copiers.

Despite all of this, some in the industry have been pushing for special new copyrights for fashion, and have even found some politicians willing to support the idea -- despite clear evidence that it's not needed (the highly competitive, highly innovative industry that exists) and research suggesting such a right would significantly harm the industry.

That's why it's interesting to see this Time magazine interview with Giorgio Armani (sent in by an anonymous reader), which relies on questions submitted by Time readers. Two of the questions deal with issues concerning "copying" of designs -- and Armani seems to recognize quite clearly the value of copying, and laughs off the idea of suing anyone for copying a design. The only downside he sees is when his designs are counterfeited with the Giorgio Armani label -- which is something we agree with. That's what trademark is supposed to protect: consumer confusion over someone pretending to be a brand that they are not. Otherwise, he seems quite happy to recognize the benefits of copying in the industry:
Does the Armani brand suffer a lot of damage because of counterfeit products? David Remenyik, BUDAPEST

Personally, I think counterfeit products are good because their existence shows that we create something people want to copy. Professionally, it causes big problems because it creates products with your name on them that are not controlled by you.

You recently accused Dolce & Gabbana of copying one of your designs. Do you plan to pursue this claim in court? Alice Goodman, SYDNEY

No. This happened at the end of a small press conference. One of my colleagues brought me a photo of this pair of pants. I said, very nonchalantly, "Look--great designers like Dolce & Gabbana copy us!" I was joking, it was not serious, but naturally the press picked up on it and splashed it all over the headlines.
Hopefully, other designers will start to recognize that this view makes sense. Having someone copy your work is a good thing, and let's hope this recognition begins spreading to other industries as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    :Lobo Santo, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 6:41am

    And Suddenly

    The views of the future in which everybody wears the same outfits make sense!!

    It's due the the clothing copyrights!

     

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  2.  
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    eleete, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:22am

    Sincerest form of Flattery

    Giorgio seems to get it, copyright in that industry would demolish the creative flow. Hell why not introduce patents while they're at it. The very people who push for those things would be the ones suffering the most. It would be a mad rush to claim ownership on everything from tank tops to socks. Horrible idea.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    DC, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    I just wonder how this can translate into a virtual world as well. I'm a long time resident of SecondLife and I see copyright infringement cases popping up all over the place. I've reported somebody to a designer who had exactly copied a pair of their shoes (using a banned scripted item called a copybot). Essentially it's people copying others' designs and selling them as their own. It becomes very discouraging to designers of clothes and skins when someone can waltz in, buy one, and take the time to photosource and copy it. Then they take that item, put their name on it (or just photoshop off the name of the original designer), and make their own profit. I would compare it more to copied paintings. It brings up a lot of gray area in intellectual property, so it would be interesting to see how something like the removal of copyright would translate. By the way, Armani did have a very short presence in the SecondLife. Their clothes weren't very good (sans a nice suit) and wouldn't have been copied anyway.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    I believe it is very important to avoid broad generalizations that "IP" is good in all contexts or that "IP" is bad in all contexts. Experience informs me that there are so many variables that are not common between industries that slavish reliance by on the above generalizations is much too simplistic an approach.

    A useful paper that serves to highlight some of the differences between the fashion/clothing industry and other industries can be downloaded via the SRRN network at:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=878401

    The paper is quite lengthy, but I believe much can be learned from the stratification that exists at different levels with the fashion/clothing industry. It is generally illustrated in a figure about 1/3 of the way through the paper by what I term an "industry pyramid". Each level of the pyramid highlights that within the industry there appears to be little competition between companies positioned at one of the other levels. For example, the high end fashion houses do vigorously compete with one another to provide designs that are the "must haves" of today and the "it's outdated" tomorrow. That others situated at other levels of the pyramid copy the dickens out of today's must haves does not appear to have any meaningful impact on the high end houses. As one progresses to lower levels of the pyramid copyists, with the intuitive result being that only a foolish copyist would ever deem it advisable to initiate litigation against another copyist since neither has innovated in the sense of having developed original designs.

    I recommend to those interested in better understanding how it is that the fashion/clothing industry works, and why in the context of the industry "IP" appears to have an impact that distinguishes it from other industries, that they read the paper.

    Again, "good/bad" generalizations are not particularly informative as to why "IP" may be important in some industries and not in others.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    The Man, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:23am

    I ruins some Brands for people with money

    I live in the land of illegal aliens (from Mexico not Canada)and have seen first hand the wives of normal people stop buying a brand because of the flood of a particular style knock off, especially purses. The mexican swap meets are full of illegal knock off clothes. When a brand is fashionable, soon jr high kids are carrying purses that should cost $500 and everyone has that once special item. It makes the women feel people think they are carrying the knock off. I guess it is good that the women are puting more money into the economy buying another item, but they will not buy the same brand that is getting knocked off, so it hurts the brand.

    It has been long time, but one example would be that Hillfiger brand. I know it was popular and expensive for awhile and then it became the most popular brand for illegal alliens and normal people stopped buying it. That could not be good for the Hillfiger company.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: I ruins some Brands for people with money

    duh, that happens to anything popular.

    Once the unwashed masses get their hands on something, the social elite cease desiring it.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Thomo, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    No one copies TechDirt's IP

    It would seem that fashion knock-offs hurt the retailers, not the designer. The designer gets paid for exclusives to selected retailers. It's the retailers that get hit by cheaper imitations. So, Armani can give someone's else's problem the cold shoulder.

     

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  8.  
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    bubba, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    how nice of armani...

    but if copying fashion were illegal he would have been in jail most of his life now...

     

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  9.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 24th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Re:

    Experience informs me that there are so many variables that are not common between industries that slavish reliance by on the above generalizations is much too simplistic an approach.

    Heh. So far, the only one making generalizations appears to be you, but... eh... if that's what you need to do.

    The point was showing how creative industries absolutely can and do flourish without strong IP rights, contrary to claims of folks like yourself who insist they're somehow necessary.

    The paper is quite lengthy, but I believe much can be learned from the stratification that exists at different levels with the fashion/clothing industry.

    And such differences can't work in other industries as well?

    Perhaps the *REASON* for such differences is the lack of IP. Which is the very point we've been making. In the absence of IP, different business models develop, and in almost every example we've seen, those business models tend to be better.

    Again, "good/bad" generalizations are not particularly informative as to why "IP" may be important in some industries and not in others.

    You want to turn every bit of evidence into an exception, but have yet to show any evidence that shows why IP is needed at all. At some point, perhaps you'll realize that all of these "exceptions" are the rule.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 24th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re: No one copies TechDirt's IP

    It would seem that fashion knock-offs hurt the retailers, not the designer. The designer gets paid for exclusives to selected retailers. It's the retailers that get hit by cheaper imitations. So, Armani can give someone's else's problem the cold shoulder.

    Um. That's actually not true at all. The retailers aren't harmed by cheap imitations, actually. Read the research. The retailers are aided by the cheap imitations because it increases the value of those clothes.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Clearly I expressed no opinion on the "necessity" of IP rights, and to suggest I did or hold such views is plainly wrong.

    My sole point was to direct persons who may have an interest to a study that may have merit in explaining why the industry seems to thrive in the absence of IP rights.

    As for generalizations, what I typically note here is a recurring theme from you and the other principals at your company that all IP is bad. I see some others who take an opposite point of view, in the more extreme cases of which it is declared that IP rights are the engine of our economy. My reference to good/bad was made with this disparity in mind.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 24th, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Clearly I expressed no opinion on the "necessity" of IP rights, and to suggest I did or hold such views is plainly wrong.

    In the past you quite clearly have expressed exactly that sentiment. You can lie now and try to hide behind anonymity (you still haven't explained why you refuse to sign your name), but it doesn't change what you've said in the past, and your previous comments.

    As for generalizations, what I typically note here is a recurring theme from you and the other principals at your company that all IP is bad. I see some others who take an opposite point of view, in the more extreme cases of which it is declared that IP rights are the engine of our economy. My reference to good/bad was made with this disparity in mind.

    Again, I'm not sure how many times this needs to be explained to you, because we've said it multiple times, and you still have trouble understanding it: we don't say that all IP is "bad." The fact is we haven't seen any evidence that it is good, and plenty of evidence that it is quite often bad.

    For someone who insists on being so exact with language, I'm having difficulty understanding why you can't grasp such a basic concept.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You can lie now...

    I can recall no single instance where I have made a comment even remotely suggesting the "necessity" of IP rights. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it is my recollection that I have consistently stated I am either for or against them.

    If my recollection is faulty, please be so kind as to point out any such instance and I will be pleased to clarify the point I was trying at the time to make.

    ...we don't say that all IP is "bad."

    What you do say is that any government grant of a "monopoly" over an "intangible" is "bad" as being in contradiction of basic economic principles.

    Quite frankly, despite what either of us may think about issues surrounding IP law, which as we both realize subsumes more than merely patents and copyrights, the simple fact of the matter is that IP exists, is viewed by many groups, including those with the power to make law, as important to our economic well-being, and is not going to go away during either of our lifetimes. Just like IP, P2P (and other content sharing technologies) are not going to go away either. I am a pragmatist. If they are going to coexist, then time is much better spent trying to lay out the groundwork for a peaceful co-existence.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "either for or" should read "neither for nor".

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 24th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If my recollection is faulty, please be so kind as to point out any such instance and I will be pleased to clarify the point I was trying at the time to make.

    I would if I could. Unfortunately, our comment search engine only lets me search on names... and for reasons that escape all of us, you only seem willing to state your name when you are identifying yourself to someone who is an extreme copyright/patent supporter. It's quite odd. Your excuse that you refuse to save cookies is hardly convincing either, since you have no problem writing a lot. Is it that hard to put your name on things too?

    What you do say is that any government grant of a "monopoly" over an "intangible" is "bad" as being in contradiction of basic economic principles.

    Not "bad." Just never proven to be good, and quite often proven to show inefficiencies that limit overall opportunities.

    I have said, repeatedly, that I am willing to be proven wrong. I find it amusing that you have yet to come up with any evidence on that point.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 6:22pm

    Silly Fashionistas. Patents and Copyrights are for Original Work.

    I find the claims and pretensions of the fashionistas laughable- or worse.

    Clothing design is restricted by the human frame. There are only a limited range of possibilities which are compatible with the ways in which arms and legs move. This means that a clothing designer can never attain the levels of originality characteristic of a writer or painter. The nearest approaches tend to involve stage clothing, for example, pantomime horses.

    Look at a book of costume, say Doreen Yarwood's _Encyclopedia of World Costume_ (1978). Over the centuries, people have periodically come up against the anatomical limits of clothing, and there are recurrent similarities in garments separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. The same components turn up over and over, albeit in different combinations. You will find that by that standard, fashionistas are immensely unimaginative. For example, look at some Armani clothes:

    http://www.armaniexchange.com/home.do

    Take one category-- men's belts and caps. Armani sells baseball caps and belts with big square buckles. The style is completely conventional. The only difference is that these items all have Armani written on them in big letters, instead of the insignia of sports teams, or marques of tractor-trucks (Mack, Kenilworth, Peterbilt, etc.). The same applies for things like T-shirts, across the whole range of products. Even the women's dresses are contained within a very narrow range. They have to be compatible with driving an automobile, or else there would be all kinds of difficulties. Armani is not free to adopt the kind of pointed shoes one sees in a fourteenth-century illustration, because they would tangle with the gas and brake pedals.

    In a textbook on architecture, Steen Eiler Rasmussen's _Experiencing Architecture_ (1959), I ran across an interesting picture, showing an actor in early seventeenth century costume riding a bicycle. The architect-author was trying to make the point that one could not simply copy old buildings, but there was a more direct incompatibility. The costume had all kinds of loose fringes, flaps, etc., and if they ever got tangled up in the bicycle's workings... the costume was effectively meant to work with riding a horse, not for living with machinery.

    What fashionistas do is merely to decree that this year, everyone will wear red, or that next year, everyone will wear blue, or something like that. Armed with a historical and ethnographic knowledge of clothing, their claim to "own" certain looks is simply preposterous.

    Of course, nowadays, the fashionistas come still more to the point, and sell clothing which is distinctive primarily in bearing their name or logo. These are clearly within the scope of trademark, of course. Even that is a perversion. In the ordinary and traditional meaning of things, if you wear a T-shirt with Armani written on it, it is understood that you have sworn to kill anyone whom Giorgio Armani wants dead-- unless, of course, they kill you first. He is your Godfather. That is what wearing livery means. The Crips, and the Bloods, and the United States Marines, and the French Foreign Legion and the Coldstream Guards all understand this, and I am quite sure Signore Armani does too.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The "strongest" statement I can recall making concerning the patent system in general can be found in the comments to an article from 3/08, and it reads as follows:

    I do believe patents have a proper role, but by and large their importance to our economic system is largely overstated.

    I am having a very difficult time reading the above and other similar posts (by MLS) as suggesting I am a strong supporter of patents and one who views them as being "necessary".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 24th, 2009 @ 10:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I find it amusing that you don't even respond to the question of why you don't put your name on your comments.

    So, anyway, let's set the matter straight right now: do you believe in the patent system? Do you believe it helps to promote the progress? Do you think we'd be worse off without the patent system?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, anyway, let's set the matter straight right now: do you believe in the patent system? Do you believe it helps to promote the progress? Do you think we'd be worse off without the patent system?

    1. Just like unauthorized file sharing over P2P is a fact of life, so too is the patent system. It is not that I believe in the patent system, but that I believe it is appropriate to use the system judiciously to assist people. I also believe it is appropriate to participate in efforts to reform the system to check abuses and inequities, all the while trying to remain true to its constitutional roots.

    2. The system does to some degree promote progress as I use the term; however, this does require constant vigilance that the requirements of Section 112 be scrupulously observed and applied. In its most elemental form the patent system is supposed to embody the quid pro quo of disclosure for grant. I endorse efforts calculated to make the word "disclosure" actually mean something.

    3. I do not have an opinion on your last question, simply because I do not know the answer. Data cuts both ways. Anecdotally, I have seen circumstances where it helps, but I have also seen circumstances where it hurts. Perhaps a useful way to look at the question is to realize that patent law is but one of several bodies of law that are closely interrelated, and by changing one the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head. Let me give an example to illustrate just one small aspect of what I mean. In re Bilski to a great extent places limits on certain classes of subject matter. I have an abiding concern that if certain of this subject matter is deemed outside the scope of our patent laws, it may very well mean that such subject matter is free to be legislated upon by the individual states. Moreover, by proclaiming that such subject matter is not embraced within the scope of our patent laws, a barn door could be set ajar for private action, such as under the law of contracts, that may result in draconian measures that could make those who call for the elimination of patents long for the day when we did have patents. First sale is an important doctrine, and with the loss of patent law the doctrine could be largely eviscerated by contracts that pay no heed to other important doctrines, "restraints on alienation" being one of these doctrines.

    Good, bad, or indifferent, patent law, for all its blemishes, does have the salutory effect of establishing a relaitvely stable and uniform system of law upon which people can rely in their conduct of business. I do believe that a stable, uniform and predictable system of law is preferrable to one where the result could possible be a free for all limited only by the imagination of competant legal counselors.

    I readily admit that the above answers are fraught with weasel words, but quite frankly the subject is much too nuanced to admit to an easy answer.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 7:32pm

    Copyright in fashion

    First you say:

    Research has shown that it's because of this lack of IP that the industry has been able to thrive.

    Then you say:

    That's what trademark is supposed to protect

    So the message is IP is good/bad/depends?

    Curiously, as an IP attorney, I do agree with you, I am simply objecting to oversimplification (pegging). IP that simply panders to the wealthy (campaign funds, again) is clearly bad, and is destroying legitimate IP regulation. BUT, it is NOT IP that is bad; it is the poorly thought out laws (dictated by the wealthy) that is bad.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Mark Mahoney, Mar 8th, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    Studies of markets for conterfeit goods

    In your recent post you said:
    "Research has shown that it's because of this lack of IP that the industry has been able to thrive. That's because it does a few things: the copycats help spread the word about the designs, getting them spread to a much wider audience than the high end fashion designers would alone. On top of that, it increases the value of authentic works by those top designers, since the reputation increases the overall value. Finally, the rapid copying pushes designers to keep innovating and keep bringing out new things, so that they're always seen on the cutting edge -- ahead of the copiers."

    For a pending criminal trademark infingement case I am working on I would love to know exactly what research you are referring to.

     

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  22.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 9th, 2009 @ 3:45am

    Re: Studies of markets for conterfeit goods

    For a pending criminal trademark infingement case I am working on I would love to know exactly what research you are referring to.

    There are a few, but this is a key one:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=878401

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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