For centuries, the idea that strong intellectual property protection spurs innovation and encourages creativity has been the lynchpin of IP laws, not to mention the mantra of IP lawyers. In The Knockoff Economy, the authors challenge that belief as they explore industries which receive weak, if any, IP protection, yet still manage to innovate and thrive. Authors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman cover a wide variety of industries including fashion, fonts, cocktails, magic, football, and the financial services industry. Several trends which have allowed creativity to flourish outside the IP framework emerge over the course of the book, including the unique nature of certain industries, trends and fads, social norms, open-source methods, and first-mover advantages. The authors do not argue for a broad change in IP laws, but instead provide a window into how creativity and innovation differ in every industry.
The book begins with the fashion industry, where, the authors argue, copying actually speeds up the creative process. The fashion cycle rewards innovation, and success requires constant reinvention as first-adopters seek out newer designs once a prior design has become mainstream. This same trend can be seen in the culinary world where copying can be an indicator of success. The authors provide the example of the molten chocolate cake which started out in a high-end restaurant and can now be found on the menu of thousands of family restaurants around the world. While the rest of the world is finding ways to prevent copying, the authors show us several industries where imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.