Patents for Clothing

I was recently to the NPR show planet money and they were talking about the fashion industry. Normally I think this industry is reasonably composed of a bunch of ridiculous fluff, but one thing that, intention was the fact that apparently clothing designs cannot be patented.

Now a powerful group within the fashion industry wants to change that by introducing a bill that would make cloth designs patentable. This of course is a bunch of total nonsense, but I’m sure the lawyers will make out like bandits trying to enforce the patent laws if they are introduced — just as the lawyers have made out like bandits with racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits.  Such laws have mostly benefited the lawyers over everyone else. I often think that these initiatives-inevitably instituted by Democratic administrations-are basically there are provide employment for a lot of out of work lawyers.

Anyway, if patents are introduced into the clothing industry, they will damage everything: reduce competition, retard creativity, increase costs, etc. But, the group that will be doing well will be the lawyers, and probably the large powerful fashion companies that have the financial reserves to sue their smaller competitors into submission. This is why certain sectors of the fashion industry support this measure, because they could use it as a bludgeon to attack their smaller rivals.  In the end expect higher prices, less choice and more monopolization of the industry. In sum, the lawyers and the big companies win, while smaller companies and the consumers lose. Sounds like business as usual to me.

Of course, I have argued for a long time that patents are being abused. In the Brezinski documentary it appears that the National Cancer Institute was able to get 10 patents approved over substances that Brezinski had previously patented. Only in a corrupt dysfunctional system can one group patent the same thing that was previously patented. The whole patent system is basically a way for lawyers and large bullying companies to have their way with other companies, and the consumer pays a price.

I feel that the whole patent industry needs to be scaled back and reformed. I’m not against having some major protection for inventors, but the system is being overdone and is being abused, and is preventing real competition and choice, while driving up costs and favoring the established players over the smaller newer ones.

People who endlessly laud patents say that without it we would have no innovation in America. Well, the fashion industry currently has no patents and I would not say that the fashion industry is lacking in creativity or innovation or new things.

What is even more abuse than the patent system is the copyright system, which needs to be radically scaled back. 75 years after the death of an author is just absurd. In America there are parts of our collective musical heritage which cannot be legally acquired, because they are under copyright law, but are not popular enough for businesses to sell them.  Here in Spain the whole system of copyright for songs has turned into a mafia like organization. Businesses that play radio music for their clients are forced to pay a fee to an organization that presumably represents artists. It’s nothing more than a shakedown operation approved by the government.

It is time for the people to get aware of how the whole system is rigged for a few favored insiders, while everyone else suffers. The people need to wake up and demand change and reform.


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