What do the Mona Lisa, the light bulb, and a Lego brick have in common? The answer – intellectual property (IP) – may be surprising, because IP laws are all about us, but go mostly unrecognized. They are complicated and arcane, and few people understand why they should care about copyright, patents, and trademarks. In this lustrous collection, Claudy Op den Kamp and Dan Hunter have brought together a group of contributors – drawn from around the globe in fields including law, history, sociology, science and technology, media, and even horticulture – to tell a history of IP in 50 objects. These objects not only demonstrate the significance of the IP system, but also show how IP has developed and how it has influenced history. Each object is at the core of a story that will be appreciated by anyone interested in how great innovations offer a unique window into our past, present, and future.
The Look in His Eyes': The Story of State v. Rusk and Rape Reform
This chapter for Criminal Law Stories (Robert Weisberg & Donna Coker eds., 2013), tells the story of State v. Rusk through the lens of rape law reform. Beginning in the 1970s, under the influence of feminism, some prevailing attitudes and expectations about sex between men and women started to change. Edward Rusk, like many guys, didn’t think he just had to stop because a girl who seemed interested said she didn’t want to have sex. He was convicted of rape at the cusp of legal transformation, when sexual behavior that had been socially commonplace was rapidly in the midst of being recast as criminal. Drawing on many interviews with lawyers, judges, and other people involved in the case, I tell the story of when and how a set of social norms of sex and dating became unacceptable. This is a story of the legal role and consequences of that social change.
The Fashion Originators’ Guild of America: Self-Help at the Edge of IP and Antitrust
The question of intellectual property for original fashion design has attracted enormous public attention in recent years. As we show in this chapter, the question has a storied past.
In the 1930s, as American fashion was coming into its own as a cultural force, designers worried about knockoffs. Then, as now, they lacked intellectual property protection for original fashion designs, and sought legislative protection. But they also pursued a regulatory solution, as part of New Deal responses to the Great Depression. They ultimately settled on an effective but controversial solution: a set of self-help measures targeting both copyists and retailers willing to merchandise knockoffs.
The resulting boycott, devised by the Fashion Originators’ Guild of America (“Guild”), was a massive private IP scheme. At its height, a staggering 4000 new designs were protected each month. The designers’ organized efforts at self-help to create design protection eventually gave rise to antitrust lawsuits in federal and state courts, culminating in a pair of 1941 Supreme Court cases.
This chapter tells the story of the Depression-era fashion designers, and the solutions they pursued to remedy the lack of intellectual property protection for their work. It describes the Guild’s formation and activities within the social, economic, and legal context of the Depression, and the fatal government scrutiny that eventually led to the Guild’s demise. Finally, it suggests some lessons as to both means and ends drawn from this story about fashion design protection: about self-help as a private solution to a public lack on the one hand, and about intellectual property protection for design on the other.