12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This book explores the validity of the belief that innovation and growth only happen when there are strong protections against copying or duplication. The authors, both lawyers, make a compelling argument that IP protections like copyright, patents, etc. do not themselves create an environment of innovation.
Creating `monopoly' rights is not a requirement for vibrant innovation, growth and creativity.
Rather than argue against IP protection, the authors provide examples of industries with low IP protections and a degree of copying that still have high levels of growth and innovation. In showing the positive, the authors provide a compelling and thoughtful view on the connection between protection and innovation.
Raustiala and Sprigman discuss innovation and growth in industries as diverse as fashion, football; stand up comedy, medicine, cuisine, fonts and high finance. The analysis and discussion of each of these industries is first rate providing a balanced, evolutionary and focused approach. I learned much about these industries simply by reading the relevant chapters. I also gained a fresh perspective on the role and type of innovation that works best for most industries based on continuous tweaking rather than bold invention.
This is a top rated book because of the summation and implications provided in the concluding chapter. Like any good TV attorney, the authors save the best for last. I recommend reading this book in the following order.
1. The introduction, then
2. The conclusion and the epilogue, then
3. The first chapter and the rest of the book.
Reading the conclusion second seems a bit disconcerting at times, but it brings a deeper appreciation to the arguments made in the middle chapters.
Share this book widely across the executive suite. I highly recommend it to those in Product Development, Corporate Strategy, CIO, CMO, CEO, CFO and the Chief Corporate Council. Too often we all get set in our ways of thinking, translate everything into dollars and cents, and ignore the possibility of alternative ways of competing. This book combats all of these tendencies, providing a fresh look at an important fundamental issue: innovation and IP.
The Knockoff Economy provides powerful arguments that require rethinking the view of intellectual property and creating deep disruption by changing industry terms. It is chocked full of useful concepts like the 'fashion cycle' the role of social and behavioral norms, six observations about innovation, IP and copying, etc.
Be warned this is not a business book in the traditional sense. The authors are not selling a five-step program, a framework or a solution. Rather they point out the limitations of an existing and deeply held belief that innovation requires protection against copying. This is an argument that leads you to create your own conclusions, but in light of digitalization, innovation and the pace of change, we all need new thinking in this area.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"The Knockoff Economy" by Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman presents an original, interdisciplinary study of the relationship between innovation and imitation. The author's brilliant deconstruction of various creative industries succeeds in challenging our preconceived notions about the role of intellectual property (IP) rights in today's increasingly "low-IP" economy. Thoroughly researched and accessibly written, this outstanding book is certain to be widely read and discussed.
The author's core argument is that creativity can do more than survive in a knockoff environment; it can thrive. The authors discuss three low-IP industries to shed light on the subject. We learn that in the fashion world, the skills of top designers become even more in-demand as knockoffs accelerate the cycle of innovation. The authors explain how the culinary arts embraces an informal system of professional courtesy and attribution which serves to enhance the prestige of the industry's most creative top chefs. And in the stand-up comedy world, we see how the industry can quickly close ranks on renegade comedians who dare to steal original materials from others.
At first glance, these case studies might seem to be purely situational. However, the authors show us how the key concepts gleaned from these studies can be applied to virtually any other industry. Among the many insights gained along the way, it becomes evident to us that a multi-layered strategy might be the most effective way to keep creativity and imitation in a harmonious relationship; as opposed to the single brute-force instrument of the lawsuit (which in the case of music file sharing, ultimately proved to be ineffective).
In the Epilogue, the authors engage in an intriguing thought experiment where the lessons learned are powerfully applied to the music industry. The authors believe that music can prosper as a low-IP industry by fundamentally redefining its relationship with fans. It is suggested that this can be achieved in part through increasing consumer choice; which in turn might be made possible by embracing new technologies. To be sure, some of these ideas have been suggested elsewhere but what is different here is the author's tight integration of their theory with workable solutions. Indeed, with more artists empowered to create and connect with the fans who most appreciate their work, the authors envision a bright future for the industry.
I highly recommend this thoughtful, timely and influential book to everyone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Knockoff Economy" is about innovation at the intersection of creative work, originality, imitation, and intellectual property law with some consideration given to financial aspects. It was interesting to be reading this book when the billion dollar verdict in the Apple v. Samsung case was announced.
Major fields discussed are fashion, cuisine, comedy, magic, football, fonts, financial products such as mutual funds, and the music industry. Subjects explored include trends and life-cycles, enforcement through social norms, goods vs. experiences, open source development, first-mover advantage, and brands and counterfeits.
The authors propose that innovation can flourish regardless of intellectual property laws. Some important factors are sometimes overlooked in certain situations, such as the financial influences of the shift from domestic garment production to imports or changes in market size for music. Throughout there is discussion of the history of intellectual property laws and its quirks such as why some things are given protection and others aren't. Certain areas that would have contributed greatly to their argument, such as unique sharing of U.S. automobile technology intellectual property, are omitted entirely.
Although "The Knockoff Economy" isn't intended as a textbook but more of a popular economics book and sometimes seems like disconnected magazine articles held together as a book by a topical outline and a conclusion, I did learn a lot and enjoyed the many fascinating anecdotes. On the other hand, the tacked-on discussion of the music industry doesn't contain any major insights not already expressed elsewhere.
One particular thing that I found interesting was the brief discussion of how knockoffs can act as an advertisement for authentic goods and how a good percentage of consumers of counterfeit merchandise may later purchase the genuine brand. I also did not know that reason Advil has such a large share of the ibuprofen market is that Pfizer had a two year period of market exclusivity that ended decades ago. Some of the material is even humorous, such as the part about those Ugg boots or the D-list magician who made a television show revealing secrets and was ostracized by other magicians.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
THE KNOCKOFF ECONOMY (subtitled HOW IMITATION SPURS INNOVATION) by Professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman (2012, Oxford University Press, 247 pages) is quite the mouthful for a title. Prof. Raustiala is a law professor at UCLA and Prof. Sprigman is the Class of 1963 Research Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. This is important, because this book reads a bit like a legal brief.
The book explores the relationship between creativity and copying - the authors call it "innovation" versus "imitation" - and make a good argument that imitation spurs and nourishes innovation. They immediately state they are not referring to stealing, which shows their legal prudence, but that is not their point. Addressing everything from 'copycat' items like dresses to the stealing of jokes among comedians, the authors drive home a good point.
An economy does thrive when legal reproductions and other forms of copying are allowed and enjoyed. However, the table of contents reveals the level of example the authors use to illustrate points. From fashion victims to cuisine, from standup comedy studies to football plays, the authors really beat the dead horse here. I was saddened that they had such a long and tedious chapter about comedians stealing from one another - they completely missed an opportunity to address the copying in cinema.
There is a lot of unnecessary overreaching in this book, which I find a bit immature coming from professors. The authors lost me when they addressed "Tweaking" which I thought was an example of their overreaching. The chapter on the history of standup comedy and copycatting drags in a most unamusing way. All of this disappointed because I love this topic and happen to be an amateur expert on the subject - I've had the privilege of discussing this for many decades with many great people.
This book concludes with an overly long, sectioned chapter containing annoying repetition; the epilogue goes on and on, actually sectioned off when that material should have been addressed earlier in the book. I expected a richer, more compelling book. However, I think this will do well, because at least it starts the argument nicely. If others will only copy this idea and enrich the argument further, I'll be happy to read that too!
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This book begs the question that imitation spurs innovation, looking at fashion designers, chefs, comedians, football coaches, font designers, and bankers to support this point. Since they find at least some evidence of innovation in each of these areas, they conclude that imitation is responsible for it and not at all harmful. These are the same logical flaws that Pirate's Dilemma has.
The authors' anecdotal support comes mostly from wealthy, established practitioners. It's as logical as pointing to Jim Carrey and asking why all actors aren't rich and successful. If this system works, why aren't more innovators successful?
Instead, they should examine what the situation would be if there were stronger protections. It's not that I endorse that particular view, but if you want to prove that innovation is stimulated by imitation, you also have to prove that it's stimulated more by imitation than it is without imitation. However, we can't conduct that experiment easily. We don't know if we are better off with imitation. Personally, I think we need some imitation, but, as they point out, there also needs to be social control. Chefs, comedians, and magicians are self-policing and particularly brutal about it, but these people know each other and eventually cross paths. However, a fashion designer can't self-regulate against a nameless south Asian sweatshop selling through a big chain store (especially after various court cases making that illegal) or a knock-off vendor on a street corner because those imitators don't care what business they are in as long as they get money. You can't ostracize someone who doesn't want to be in your group anyway.
There's very little said about the difference between people wanting to imitate to advance the art and people wanting to imitate for the sole purpose to make money. They acknowledge the first of those but don't say much about the second. They don't delve into the thorny problem of starving artists. If imitation spurs artistic innovation, why isn't there more innovative artistic commerce? If comedians benefit from imitation, why are they so poor? Why do so many "creatives" need to have day jobs? There might be answers to those questions, but I don't know what they are. I do know that we should be asking those questions.
In my own area, open source software, which actually uses copyright laws to allow copying (they miss this subtle distinction), how do they explain that all of the open source imitation has yet to produce software as good as Photoshop or a desktop experience that regular people want to use? Why hasn't open source software projects been more successful? There's not much money in open source, and without money, people ("imitators") aren't motivated to do the boring bits of work that make something excellent. Do you think your knock off Gucci bag is the same quality as the real thing? Why wouldn't the knock off "artist" take as much time and care to make the real thing? Why don't they source the same materials? The answer certainly isn't "for the advancement of the arts".
The knock-off economy isn't the much different than what we've known forever. Most people want to do the least work with the least investment to make the most money. That there are some people (artists) who just want to create great things, and only a sliver of them were successful, doesn't negate that.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2012
What do comedians, magicians, and fashion designers all have in common? They have to grapple with competitors potentially ripping off their stuff and thereby undermining their livelihood. In this intriguing book, two law professors explore how people deal with situations where the law doesn't apply, so other means must be found to apply "social norms" -- including shunning and physical violence. Smart and counterintuitive thinking on subjects that at aren't traditionally thought of as intellectually deep, yet turn out to have generated complex moral reasoning.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book is very topical and addresses a very 21st century problem of economics in the highly connected, fast moving modern world. With the internet changing almost every ground rule socially and financially, many old school of thoughts are simply outdated and not applicable to the modern world. The authors in this book tackle the very difficult subject of creativity and innovation as it relates to copyright and patent protection. Unfortunately, they primarily based their foundational analysis on the fashion industry, the restaurant industry, comedians, (American) professional football, and modern finance. The choice is more than dubious if the end goal was to generalize for more than their selection. But the authors are basically trying to provide a compelling argument that lack of copyright (or IP) protection is a deterrent to creativity. For their "knockoff industries", they make a fairly mediocre (albeit entertaining) argument, but at the end of the day, how much do you really want to generalize based on those industries?
1. Fashion Industry - Does anyone really care if the high-end designers rip each other off and then the knockoff companies come in and sell their version of a 300 dollar dress for 30? It's great for the economy, and in the end they cycle to the next new trend and the cycle continues. The authors do their best to argue that there are some lessons here, and there are if one is analyzing an industry that blows with the social wind and doesn't require a high school education to be creative.
2. Comedians - Really? Three thousand in the country and there is something really to be learned from the economics of being a comedian? Their strongest point in this case is on social norms in the industry to keep other comedians from stealing (and the accountability that the internet now offers). But at the end of the day, there is no way this economic paradigm is useful to understand any other somewhat large economic system.
3. Food industry - Very little can be copyrighted or patented, yet the food industry flourishes. Why because they too have a norm, but more importantly, can actually get recognition as a top chef or restaurant. Again, what percentage of America really can afford these high end restaurants and if it weren't for these cable cooking shows, would chefs be celebrities at all? But here is an industry that is based on a process that is as old as mankind, eating. Sure, chefs develop and market creations, but how much of it is really innovation?
About innovation, the authors use this word almost synonymous with variation and if you've read any book on innovation (like The Innovator's Dillema or The Innovator's Solution), you'd know that these books refer to innovation as a paradigm shift. Most of what the authors call innovation is simply variation and there is simply nothing innovative about it. If innovation is in the title of your book, you might consider having providing a singular consistent definition throughout the book, but the authors know if they did that, more than half their book would no longer be applicable.
4. The example of American football is simply ridiculous. They offer the idea that variations in offense is the reason that football is flourishing. In this case, the forward pass was a paradigm shift, but the variations in the offense are simply methods to KEEP the game interesting for the many rabid fans.
5. The example of the finance industry is downright insulting! First, most of the innovations were made by academics and by the way we're a big source of the disaster/collapse of 2008 that has cost the people of the world trillions of dollars. Basically, many of the financial executives who benefited from collapse because they used these "innovative" methods pocketed the money with the governments of the world picking up the pieces. I had to ignore this example to give the book anything but a 1 star rating. These so-called innovations nearly ruined the world economy and this is an argument for the pro side of innovation in the finance world? Yikes!
The book ends rambling on about databases and some pretty awful analyses on the music industry. As everyone knows, the music industry has been in a tailspin for the last 10 - 15 years due to illegal file sharing. The author's "insightful" recommendation is that the music industry stress quality and emphasize live performances citing an increase in revenue from live performances. Of course, the reference is for the big bands like the Rolling Stones on one of their many "one last tour" tours. Traditionally, it's very expensive to give live shows with profits for emerging bands almost non-existent. It's true that nothing is like a live show, but ask an emerging band if they can make a decent living just touring, the answer is going to come back much different than the Rolling Stones analysis.
Basically, this is what you get if two lawyers write a book about economics, even if it is a book on IP and copy protection (or the suggestion to completely do away with it). The book overall had a lot of interesting information but lacked the consistent strong argument on the value of legal protection for the individual trying to create something for profit. Yes, we seem to live in a knockoff world, but that hardly means that the US economy is going to survive the tactics of countries that blatantly steal intellectual property. But really the biggest problem that runs rampant throughout the book is the confusion of innovation with variation.
If you buy and read this book, it is the beginning of asking the question of IP and copyright protection in the 21st century and with some major improvements could be a pivotal work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a timely well-presented case for restoring balance to the national dialogue on IP law and its effects. It is well written and a highly enjoyable read.
Although clearly on one side of the IP law debate, the author does not resort to statistical tricks, misdirection, or straw man substitution to make his case. He instead uses examples from hi-IP and low-IP industries to draw comparisons and illustrate his opinion. No matter which side of the IP debate you fall on, or what your interest in the debate is, you will enjoy this book and be armed with a broad range of background on the topic. It is well thought out and somewhat comprehensive.
I highly recommend it both for casual reading and for graduate professors to consider adding to their curriculum.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've certainly been aware of imitation in movies, books, and music, but have never been aware of the stealing of ideas in such fields as fashion, gourmet cuisine, stand-up comedy, and, believe it or not, football. All these fields are covered and fully examined. The core notion that imitation spurs innovation seems quite valid. This doesn't excuse the less creative individuals who copy the work of their betters, but the book does put the problem into perspective. And it does so in a way that is entertaining and rewarding for us readers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
For a book about creativity, the reading is surprisingly dry. There was a lot of repetition, and the writing is pedantic.
The argument that imitation is the staging point for creativity is well-researched, however. Just ask The Bard about the enduring power of derivative works: it's not a bad thing to copy from someone else, as long as you do it better.
"Tweaking", the author posits, can be in itself an art.
Intellectual property law is thoroughly discussed, as are the points where major loopholes appear: in the worlds of recipes, jokes and football plays. As the author notes, from many of these subcultures arose their own forms of idiosyncratic self-policing. For example, shunning can be as serious as a lawsuit in certain circles.
I appreciated the chapter discussing font types. There turns out to be a very good reason the Ariel font is used in Microsoft, instead of Helvetica, a more historied sans-serif font. And what's interesting, I find Ariel presents a cleaner online read, in any case. Thus imitation can surpass the original.
The epilogue discusses the last decade's evolution of music sharing, from Napster to BitTorrent, through iTunes and the Zune (that Betamax of music players). As it turns out, the record-labels mishandled their own best interests.
So there is certainly some worthwhile stuff here.
This book would make a good text for a humanities class, or introduction to law. Innovators and R&D administrators would benefit greatly from the research unearthed here.
It's just not written in an appealing manner. I found myself skimming a lot of pages to get to the meatier, more original ideas. Ironically. ;)