Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Geertje Hesseling's thesis about Intellectual Property Rights in Fashion in China

Geertje Hesseling wrote an interesting Master's thesis 'Intellectutal Property rights in fashion in China and the knowledge of young Chinese designers on this topic' for Cultural Economics & Cultural Entrepreneurship at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

She develops her thesis by testing the following hypotheses:

H1. With stronger intellectual property rights law, China will attract more investments in fashion.
H2. The most useful way to implement stronger intellectual property rights in fashion is to strengthen and adjust in particular the copyright and trademark policies, but next to this also cultural and governmental adjustments are needed.
H3. Intellectual property rights strengthen the fashion cycle instead of damaging it.
H4. Younger designers care and know little about intellectual property rights concerning their designs.
H5. Young designers are in more need of IP rights protection than bigger and already established companies.

Next to do desk research Ms Hesseling did empirical research by interviewing the following people:
  • Paul Smidt of Baker & McKenzie in Hong Kong;
  • Paul Ranjard, co-chair of the EU China Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and representative of Unifab;
  • Queenie Leung, young designer, graduate Fashion and Textile Design of Polytechnic University Hong Kong;
  • Ivan Yip, young designer, third year of Textile and Design of Raffles University Shanghai;
  • Gerry Ng Yuen Yi, young designer, third year of Accessory Design at Mod' Art International School Beijing;
  • Yin Shu, young designer, graduate Textile and Design of International Fashion Academy, Shanghai;
  • Sheila Pitigala, young designer, working on her own label in Shanghai;
  • Tim Hoar, Business Development Manager Student IP, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design;
  • Dominique Simard, Marketing and Business Development Director, International Fashion Academy Shanghai.
  • Yours truly.
Geertje Hesseling interviewed me in June 2009:

Geertje Hesseling: What should be changed in policies in China so that piracy is a issue of less concern?
Danny Friedmann: If you have to evaluate China's intellectual property protection it looks good in the books but on the ground it is not effective. Enforcement is not always taken seriously (massive anti-counterfeiting campaigns are not effective in the long run, and are often announced in advance so the infringers are warned), but the development of China is getting at a point where it is in the interest of China to enforce intellectual property rights. So, in case of fashion, when Chinese fashion creators, such as Shanghai Tang's copyright is infringed, it will start to enforce intellectual property rights in a more effective way, since Chinese companies demands this.

Geertje Hesseling: Is IP rights protection more important for smaller companies or is it equally important for the large companies?
Danny Friedmann: Large companies in general have more famous brands. Therefore, probably in more cases, they will be targeted by trademark counterfeiters and copyright pirates. Then again, large companies can have more budget to protect (via design rights and copyrights) and enforce their intellectual property rights.

Geertje Hesseling: What do you think will be the future of fashion with little IP rights, in countries such as in China?
Danny Friedmann: Fashion trends will change even faster. I can speculate that consumers will start to look more at quality. Trends in fashion infringements: first brands and designs were copied. Now, although this still happens, a new category of infringements is becoming more prominent: only the design is infringed under a Chinese brand name. In other words, the trademark counterfeiters/copyright pirates are becoming only copyright pirates because they start to build their own brand name.
By the way: In the European Union each fashion designer who has created a design obtains (just like copyright) at the moment of creation a European Design Right for three years, which can be enforced in the EU. This is without registration! Just like copyrights.

Geertje Hesseling: What do you think are China’s most influential factors for attracting piracy when it comes to the rampant copying of the fashion industry in this country?
Danny Friedmann: China can manufacture clothes relatively much more cost-effective compared to companies in the West. And the distribution of wealth in China is uneven and much lower than in the West. Even in the West fashion is copied very frequently, or to put it differently: fashion designers are inspired by other fashion designers. And maybe fashion is not so suitable for copyright protection, because by definition fashion designers build upon the designs or remix the designs of others. And fashion trends change so quickly anyway, first mover advantage is probably more important in fashion business than intellectual property protection. Please see chapter 8 'Extra-judicial factors' of my thesis.

Read Ms Hesseling's thesis here.

1 comment:

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