Fashion Designers Turning To Patents To Protect Their Designs (And Kill The Industry)
from the how-short-sighted-can-you-be dept
Five years ago we pointed out that the entertainment industry could take a wonderful lesson from the fashion industry. After all, here was a highly competitive, extremely profitable, exceptionally innovative creative industry — and it was doing all that without copyright protection. It seemed to show quite the opposite of what many in the entertainment industry predicted would happen without copyrights. Unfortunately, though, the lessons seemed to go in the other direction. The fashion industry got jealous of the entertainment industry’s ability to crack down on innovation with copyrights and pushed Congress to introduce new legislation that would add a copyright for fashion design. Recently such laws have been getting a big push from politicians who are pandering to the fashion industry. Of course, studies have shown that the very reason the industry has thrived was because the lack of IP protection. In fact, one bit of research showed that adding IP protections to fashion could kill the industry.
While that may sound counterintuitive at first, it’s not once you understand the market a little bit more. Fashion is a trend industry. You need a trend to make something popular and the only real way to get a trend is when designers are copying each other. Without that ability trends don’t show up, and the demand for the latest “trend” dries up. On top of that, having copycat designs on the lower end actually act as a “signal” that a high-end designer is on to something. It helps prop up the price of those name-brand designs, while making similar copycat designs more affordable to a lower end of the market that would never buy the high end designers. It’s both a way of establishing a larger market and doing price discrimination.
However, it appears that fashion designers still don’t want to understand the economics of intellectual property and why it may hurt them. Since the bill for copyrights on fashion designs is still making its way through Congress, designers have taken it upon themselves to start using design patents instead and enforcing those rights aggressively (thanks to Gary for sending the story in). Considering that the recording industry’s aggressive enforcement of copyrights has contributed to a massive slide in revenue for that industry, you would think that the fashion industry would think twice before following it down that path.