The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation

The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation.

The Knockoff Economy approaches the question of incentives and innovation in a wholly new way–by exploring creative fields where copying is generally legal, such as fashion, food, and even professional football. By uncovering these important but rarely studied industries, Raustiala and Sprigman reveal a nuanced and fascinating relationship between imitation and innovation. In some creative fields, copying is kept in check through informal industry norms enforced by private sanctions. In others, the freedom to copy actually promotes creativity. High fashion gave rise to the very term “knockoff,” yet the freedom to imitate great designs only makes the fashion cycle run faster–and forces the fashion industry to be even more creative.

Raustiala and Sprigman carry their analysis from food to font design to football plays to finance, examining how and why each of these vibrant industries remains innovative even when imitation is common. There is an important thread that ties all these instances together–successful creative industries can evolve to the point where they become inoculated against–and even profit from–a world of free and easy copying. And there are important lessons here for copyright-focused industries, like music and film, that have struggled as digital technologies have made copying increasingly widespread and difficult to stop.

Looks like an interesting book.

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1 Comment

  1. Clones may have harmed IBM, but the open ISA bus architecture and clones pushed the computer industry to advance processor power, memory speed and address space, operating system development and software development decades ahead of what all the previous proprietary restricted systems would have produced. What’s a Sperry, Unisys, Triad?

    In reality it didn’t hurt IBM so much as broadly expand their product lines to support the invasion of the Microsoft OS based Intel and later AMD PC systems into every nook and cranny on the whole planet.

    Thus was Apple curtailed and Motorola stomped out of existence in the PC arena and all the previous proprietary mini-computer producers like Wang, Sperry, DEC, et.al. removed from existence.

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