Cronuts, Couture And The Battle For Copyright

Cronuts, duffins, townies and brookie’s. BBC News has described innovation in the cooking world as the ‘unstoppable march of hybrid bakery products’.

It has sparked some curious reactions. Overnight queues in New York and black market repros for two. Bea’s of Bloomsbury is taking on Starbucks in a bid to retain the patent for its ‘duffin’ a blend of donuts and muffins which it claims the chain has ‘stolen’ for its own menu.

But can you really copywrite or patent a food product? Plagiarism in the creative industries is a murky subject and some things are easier to prove than others. Directly lifting text from a publication for instance or a photograph and passing it off as your own is one thing, but once you’ve put a good idea out there, perhaps a pattern cutting technique or a food item, what is there to stop someone else from jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck or explore it in the designers own way?

The truth of the matter is that you can’t. Bea’s might have some success with the likes of Starbucks due to extensive coverage (and if not at least they’ve got some great free publicity) but in the world of fashion the ‘borrowing’ and reworking of ideas is common and accepted as a done thing.

Fashion week – indeed any couture runway – is the mood board of high street chains and independent designers the world over. High end designers create lavish and unwearable creations to inspire everyone else and pave the way for the new season’s trends. Many of us further down the line will have discovered copies of our work. Great ideas will be reused, of that there is no doubt. The adage ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ may be true but irksome to the powerless originator. And it seems there isn’t an awful lot you can do about it.

Whilst you are sole outlet for a design or idea you hold the market – the money and the publicity is yours – but once copycats get a hold of it, you’re up against everyone else and lost in a sea of similarity. It’s a far cry from the rest of the creative industry – music, film and publishing – which are continuously caught up in piracy battles to retain their products.

It’s the desire to stand out from the crowd that keeps us innovating, striving to create the next collection, the next photoshoot, the next publicity campaign. To be the one that stands out. Maybe instead of getting riled by such things, think of yourself as a trend setter, inspiration to a whole wave of creations that keeps the industry bubbling away and keeps us all in business. Afterall, if we could all copyright our fashion creations, how would anyone get the product? One designer cannot supply the whole world and fashion needs innovators to keep it moving onwards.

Once upon a time someone had a great idea for making rams horns into a headdress. Then everyone was doing it (source)

Once upon a time someone had a great idea for making rams horns into a headdress. Then everyone was doing it (source)


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