Sunday, April 08, 2007

Fashion: A thriving industry without IP protection

Another industry that seems to get along well without intellectual property protection is the fashion industry. Brand names and logos are protected by trademark, but the design of clothing is generally not protected in the United States. [...]

At one time, the fashion industry did have a self-imposed system of intellectual property protection. In the 1930s, the Fashion Originators’ Guild prohibited copying among its members and urged retailers not to sell items from those who copied other designs. The guild was reasonably successful in these efforts. But in 1941, the Supreme Court held that its practices violated antitrust laws, and since then the fashion industry in the United States has had no intellectual property protection for designs.

That's from Hal Varian's column on needlessness of intellectual property rights (at least in some domains).


  1. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    In her book "Digital copyright", Jessica Litman talks about this, and about the restaurant industry. In reaction to the usual arguments by the movie industry and the record industry, she says (I paraphrase), imagine if your neighbourhood diner could rip off the menu of the elite cordon bleu restaurant down the street. People could get the same exquisite dishes at a fraction of the price. The elite restaurants, whose highly trained chefs have thought up these exotic dishes, would go out of business if their dishes weren't protected by copyright. Or imagine if your local tailor could rip off Armani or Versace designs: the fashion industry would collapse and die without copyright protection. Of course, recipes and fashion designs are not and never have been protected by copyright.

  2. Niket said...

    The world with copyright / intellectual property protection is very different from a world without. There will be success stories, and amazing success stories, and stories of failure and amazing failure and everything in between in both these worlds. I am currently a fence-sitter.

    Personally, I'd prefer to publish rather than patent, but don't hold anything against either IP or non-IP people.