Prof Kal Raustiala: The Piracy Paradox - Can Imitation Spur Innovation?

Professor Kal Raustiala.

NUS Law welcomed Professor Kal Raustiala, as speaker for this year’s Yong Shook Lin Professorship in Intellectual Property Public Lecture. The lecture titled “The Piracy Paradox: Can Imitation Spur Innovation? Reflections from the American Fashion Industry”, had over 150 members of the law and fashion industries attending the event. Organised in conjunction with this year’s IP Week, the event took place at NUS Law’s Bukit Timah Campus on 16 August 2016.

Professor Raustiala persuasively argued against the conventional wisdom that copying kills creativity. The common understanding is that the protections afforded by IP law are essential lest creators, fearing that copyists will steal their profits, forego creating in the first place. He explored the story of the American fashion industry which challenges every aspect of this conventional rationale. In the US fashion designs can be freely and legally copied by anyone.

While brands protect their trademarks, and certain fabric patterns fall under copyright, the vast majority of designs can—and often are—knocked off by competitors seeking a piece of a profitable trend. Indeed, megafirms like “Forever 21” base their entire business model on the freedom to copy. Yet the American fashion industry has not only survived in the face of rampant piracy; it has thrived. How it does this—and what it means for IP law and theory—are critical questions as innovation increasingly becomes the core driver of advanced economies the world over.

Joining Professor Raustiala in the discussion were a distinguished panel of experts in the field, who also took questions from the audience. Associate Professor Elizabeth Ng Siew Kuan, Deputy Chair and Director (IP), Centre for Law & Business, NUS Law, chaired the panel and she was joined by:

Dr Stanley Lai Tze Chang SC, Partner, Head of IP Practice, Allen & Gledhill LLP
Ms Priscilla Shunmugam, Director, Ong Shunmugam
Associate Professor David Tan, Vice‐Dean (Academic Affairs), NUS Law
Mr Daren Tang Heng Shim, Chief Executive, IPOS, Singapore

This year’s edition of the Yong Shook Lin Professorship in Intellectual Property Public Lecture was organised by NUS Law and IPOS.

About the Speaker
Kal Raustiala is a professor at the UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute. He currently serves as the Faculty Director of the UCLA International Education Office, and since 2007 as director of the UCLA Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations. From 2012‐2015 he served as UCLA’s Associate Vice Provost for International Studies. A graduate of Duke University, Professor Raustiala holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, San Diego. Professor Raustiala's research focuses on international law and intellectual property. His recent publications include “Governing the Internet,” forthcoming, American Journal of International Law; "Fake It Till You Make It: The Good News About China’s Knockoff Economy,” Foreign Affairs, (July/August
2013); “NGOs in International Treaty‐Making,” in The Oxford Guide to Treaties (2012); and Does the Constitution Follow the Flag? The Evolution of Territoriality in American Law, (Oxford, 2009). His most recent book, The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation (Oxford, 2012), written with Christopher Sprigman of NYU Law School, has been translated into Korean, Japanese, and simplified and complex Chinese.

Professor Raustiala has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, Princeton University, the University of Chicago Law School, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Melbourne University Law School. A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Vice President of the American Society of International Law, he serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of International Law. Raustiala is a frequent media contributor whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, the New Yorker, Wired, the International Herald Tribune and Le Monde.

From left: Dr Stanley Lai Tze Chang SC, Dean Simon Chesterman, Associate Professor David Tan, Professor Kal Raustiala, Mr Daren Tang Heng Shim, Ms Priscilla Shunmugam, and Associate Professor Elizabeth Ng Siew Kuan.

Professor Raustiala with the panellists taking questions from the floor.

Professor Kal Raustiala chatting with Dean Simon Chesterman and Associate Professor David Tan.

Professor Kal Raustiala.