Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Some Fashion Designers Sue Innovators; Others Just Innovate

The March 31 issue of Business Week had an interesting article on recent efforts by some fashion designers to sue their copiers, "Put a Patent on That Pleat." Stuart Weitzman and Diane von Furstenberg sued a couple competitors, including Target, which copied von Furstenberg's "spotted frog" print. Target spinelessly caved in and stopped selling its frog knockoffs, saying it respected others' "intellectual property." This is the kind of stuff Ayn Rand meant when she talked about "the sanction of the victim." (N.B. I am neither a Randian, nor an Objectivist; and I oppose her defense of patents and copyrights.)

But lo and behold, movie mogul and impresario Harvey Weinstein, who owns the Halston label, is moving to make its catwalk fashions available right off the runway at Net-a-Porter.com, with the idea of using a first-to-market model to beat the pirates at their own game and garner the rents earned from satisfying the market demands of demanding fashionistas first. Even Mr. Weitzman and others are innovating by designing original creations with new materials and patterns that make it harder for pirates to copy them. Some of the new materials are too expensive for knockoff purveyors to copy.

In September 2007, James Surowiecki revisited "The Piracy Paradox", the tendency noted by law school professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman of fashion innovation to flourish in the absence of strong intellectual "property" protection.


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