Thorstein Veblen, social philospher (who coined the term ‘Conspicuous Consumption’), believed that fashion cycles succeeded as they were a relief from the specific ugliness of the previous season. Cf. Oscar Wilde: “fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable we have to alter it every six months.”
On the other hand, law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman, suggest that the fashion cycle, or atl least the shrotness of it, is caused by copying — trends saturate the market quickly, ‘driving the fashion cognoscenti to search out newer looks.’
The Wall Street Journal, in its imprecisely titled “Can Fashion Be Copyrighted?”, p. B1 today, no free online version, discusses a proposal to grant fashion designs a three-year sui generis form of protection. Various designers, among them the knocked-off and the knockers-off, discuss copying. The article quotes Profs. Raustiala and Sprigman, as well as blog fave Susan Scafidi of Counterfeit Chic, who continues the discussion of the proposed legislation on her site.
From the website for The Double Knit Era:
Details of every team’s uniform jerseys are provided- front, back and patches, going back to the beginning of the Double Knit Era. This new THIRD EDITION for 2005 is over 1050 pages and includes more than 6000 photographs. It chronicles every detail change for every uniform jersey in the Major League Baseball going back over thirty five years.
There is a lot of information compiled here that can not be found anywhere else. Whether you are a collector checking authenticity, a dealer ensuring the correct details of what you are buying or selling, or just a hobbyist with a passion to see “one of every style”, this Collectors’ Reference is the most detailed source on the topic that exists today.
Raustiala and Sprigman, ‘The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design,’ UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 06-04 (Jan 2006). Abstract:
“The orthodox justification for intellectual property is utilitarian. Advocates for strong IP rights argue that absent such rights copyists will free-ride on the efforts of creators and stifle innovation. This orthodox justification is logically straightforward and well reflected in the law. 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. Few commentators have considered the status of fashion design in IP law. 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. This diffidence about copying stands in striking contrast to the heated condemnation of piracy and associated legislative and litigation campaigns in other creative industries.
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. In so doing, we aim to shed light on the creative dynamics of the apparel industry. But we also hope to spark further exploration of a fundamental question of IP policy: to what degree are IP rights necessary to induce innovation? Are stable low-IP equilibria imaginable in other industries as well?
Part I describes the fashion industry and its dynamics and illustrates the prevalence of copying in the industry. Part II advances an explanation for the piracy paradox that rests on two features: induced obsolescence and anchoring. Both phenomena reflect the status-conferring power of fashion, and both suggest that copying, rather than impeding innovation and investment, promotes them.
Part II also considers, and rejects, alternative explanations of the endurance of the low-IP status quo.
Part III considers extensions of our arguments to other fields. By examining copyright’s negative space – those creative endeavors that copyright does not address – we argue can we can better understand the relationship between copyright and innovation.’”
Counterfeit Chic discussion here.
Marginal Revolution discussion here.
1991 Law Review note: A Design for the Copyright of Fashion.