Why we love imitation

The press and many lobby sensitive politicians try to make us think that imitation is a bad thing. True, there are examples of imitation resulting in damage to our society.

However there is a problem with labeling imitation as a whole as bad. This is not hard to understand: imitation triggers innovation, in fact product development is the sum of 99% imitation + 1% new ideas. Putting it clear: blocking product development – progression – is Taliban style politics, expressed in the European Parliament, see the letter below.

So we may conclude saying there is good and bad imitation and we have to be careful to label it properly. The problem is not how to determine what is right and wrong but to unmask lobbyist’s attempts to turn good imitation in a bad daylight. A lot of politicians are sensitive to the tear jerking complaints of the industry and that is the main reason for strange laws such as ACTA and IPRED, that stifle innovation and progression.

Suppose you bought a fake Rolex, Chanel sun glasses and Lacoste shirts on a far away market during your holidays. Some politicians would like to put you in jail for doing this and for outside EU readers: in your country it is not different. These representatives are chosen by you and their next step is betraying you. Let’s analyze your holiday investments:

  • You could know that these kind of products are not sold on a market and certainly not for that price.
  • It doesn’t harm the right holders, after all, would you buy it for their price?
  • It serves the right holders, their brands get more exposure and it will push the demand for the real thing.
  • The consumer is happy, having the time of his life an having a good story back home.
  • The effect for society is marginal and no one is really harmed.
  • Trying to put people into prison for buying this stuff is simply insane. Why not cut their hand of?

Feel free to replace the Rolex for music, etc.

Some things are not harmless. Faking medicines can be life threatening for example. That is a total different dimension and politicians, please label this ‘attempt to murder’ instead of ‘attempt to imitate’. Composers and producers – in the broadest sense – don’t deserve our support as long as their business model is changing the laws to their needs. What they need to do is adapt their business model in a rapid changing world, today we don’t use horse carriages anymore, we use cars. Welcome to the world of true competition and use the net to earn your money. Radiohead proved different models can be very lucrative. After they uploaded their album ‘In Rainbows’ they were surprised by their biggest multi million profit ever. The construction was pay whatever you want to pay, resulting in more than one third of the downloaders contributing.

The main thing is that labeling all imitation as bad should be condemned strongly. It is imitation that brought us the best products ever made because imitation is the main ingredient of every product. Imitation brought us progression in medicines, electronics and whatever you come up because these products are always the result of imitation plus a little bit of brain work. The more we imitate, the better it serves us all. That is why we love imitation!

The letter as mentioned is included below. A link with international versions can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sidesSearch/search.do?type=QP&term=7&author=4560&language=EN&startValue=0

by Toine Manders (ALDE)
to the Commission

Subject: Infringement of (intellectual) property rights

Economic growth is currently being greatly constricted as a result of not only the global financial crisis but also the growing number of breaches of intellectual property rights and trade secrets. This, together with inadequate legal protection, is in the long term stifling innovation.

The flow of counterfeit products entering the internal market is constantly swelling. While the sale and purchase thereof is an economic crime, the authorities are doing little to prevent it. The development of innovative ideas is being hampered by the fact that the brains behind them who hold the relevant patents are being deprived of revenue from the sale thereof. Counterfeiters merely imitate, unfettered by the ‘inconvenient’ demands of design and development.

Is the Commission aware of the size of the market for counterfeit products and the major impact thereof on innovation within the internal market and the development thereof?

Trade secrets are effectively safeguarded in countries such as the United States and Japan. They are recognised by the WTO as intellectual property rights and are accordingly protected under the TRIPS Agreement. In view of the above problem and the harmful impact thereof on innovation and the further development of the internal market, it behoves the Commission to give the matter top priority.

How do the WTO/TRIPS Agreements relate to European legislative and regulatory provisions concerning trade secrets?

What specific measures will the Commission take in a bid to contain the above problem and stem unfair competition resulting from intellectual property infringements?

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