The Changing Styles of Intellectual Property

I am sure that it is no surprise to anyone, but I find fascinating how differently Intellectual Property can be used depending on the market, and how little policy makers seem to know about it.

New York senior Senator, Charles E. Schumer, has recently proposed a Bill which, if passed, will grant designs the same type of protection as copyright has, making any copies of a registered design an infringement of the granted right. We all know that protection is given to an artistic work in order to reward the efforts to contribute to culture, and arguably, to promote more innovation. Without entering into the muddy grounds of copyright as it stands today (too extensive, too long, too unclear), it is commonly agreed that some form of protection to a piece of music, a book, or a film (etc.) may contribute towards more creativity and originality. However, this reasoning does not seem to apply to the market of design, especially of fashion design.

Fashion is not based on utility but on trends. If a style or model is launched on a high level, and then copied on a lower level to accommodate different budgets, what happens is a faster consumption of that style or model. The result will be a new trend cycle which will feed the system. Therefore, you can already understand that protecting a fashion design from being copied could halt this system.  (See previous CAS-IP posts that deal with this topic: “Necessary piracy? and Innovation in the absence of copyright protection“.  –KC)

Would this thinking work in the developing countries where CAS-IP is active? Possibly in those emerging economies, like Brazil and India, where the upper class is dictated by trends and styles. But surely not in those countries where businesses still struggle to surface. Therefore, the advice that could be given to clients ought to differ considerably depending on the market, and region they operate from. I remember the phenomenon of a very fashionable line of printed fabrics in Benin; what would the approach to intellectual property protection be in that case? Comments from our readers welcome!

I wonder whether the proposed U.S. Bill will be amended or withdrawn. If you are interested in reading Senator Schumer’s legislation proposal, you can find more here. The article which provoked my thoughts can be found here.

Post written by Francesca Re Manning of CAS-IP

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2 responses to “The Changing Styles of Intellectual Property

  1. Those fabrics are all made in Holland by Vlisco and exported to West Africa. Many of the patterns and designs were “borrowed” from the Bambara, an indigenous West African tribe.

  2. Pingback: New Fashion Law Institute | the CAS-IP blog

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