Athletic clothing manufacturer Lululemon is in the news again, this time on NPR’s Planet Money, which asks “Can You Patent Yoga Pants?”
A lawsuit over $98 yoga pants feels sort of ridiculous its face. But the case is actually a big deal.
Intellectual property has historically only played a minor role in the fashion industry, and this suit may signal an important shift.
The classic argument for intellectual property is that it encourages innovation. If there’s no intellectual property, the reasoning goes, companies won’t spend the time and money to come up with new ideas, because their competitors will just steal them.
But the fashion industry doesn’t work like that. Clothing makers copy designs from each other all the time, yet you almost never see lawsuits like this one. In fact, some experts have argued that the industry’s historically loose approach to intellectual property has led to more innovation, not less.
With all there is to think about, with respect to yoga, I’m not sure I need to have an opinion on this particular controversy. I might think a little differently if this were a technology issue, but even on that front, I have not really weighed in too heavily one way or another.
But inquiring minds might want to know, and “lay” people (those who don’t do yoga) might ask you. So you might want to read up on the issue and make an informed opinion. Forewarned is forearmed. Or you might want to discuss it here. Either way I’m offering this as public service. What do you think? (Thanks to my brother for sending this along.)