With regard to IP (intellectual property) in fashion comes a paper entitled: The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design written by Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman (UCLA and UV-Law respectively). The abstract reads in part:
Advocates for strong IP rights argue that absent such rights copyists will free-ride on the efforts of creators and stifle innovation… Yet a significant empirical anomaly exists: the global fashion industry, which produces a huge variety of creative goods without strong IP protection. Copying is rampant as the orthodox account would predict. Yet innovation and investment remain vibrant…Those who have almost uniformly criticize the current legal regime for failing to protect apparel designs. But the fashion industry itself is surprisingly quiescent about copying. Firms take steps to protect the value of trademarks, but appear to accept appropriation of designs as a fact of life.
Why, when other major content industries have obtained increasingly powerful IP protections for their products, does fashion design remain mostly unprotected – and economically successful? The fashion industry is a puzzle for the orthodox justification for IP rights. This paper explores this puzzle. We argue that the fashion industry counter-intuitively operates within a low-IP equilibrium in which copying does not deter innovation and may actually promote it. We call this the “piracy paradox.” This paper offers a model explaining how the fashion industry’s piracy paradox works, and how copying functions as an important element of and perhaps even a necessary predicate to the industry’s swift cycle of innovation.