Here is an excerpt from The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation, which has just been published by Oxford University Press. Next week, we’ll be taking questions from Freakonomics readers in a Q&A. We’ll also run a contest for the wackiest photo of a knockoff item.
THE KNOCKOFF ECONOMY
The traditional justification for trademark law, which protects brands, has little to do with innovation. Instead, trademark law’s justification is that brands help consumers identify the source of products, and thereby buy the item they want–and not an imitation. And yet brands—like Apple, or J. Crew–play an important and often unappreciated creativity-inducing role in several of the industries we explore in The Knockoff Economy.
Put in economic terms, trademarks reduce the search costs associated with consumption. If you’ve had a positive experience with basketball shoes from Adidas, then marking them with the trademark-protected three-stripes helps ensure that you can quickly find their shoes the next time you are shopping. And of course it also lets everyone else know which shoes you prefer. Read More »
This week in San Jose, a trial opened that may be the World War III of patents. Apple is suing Samsung, alleging that the Korean tech giant has knocked off many features of its iPhone and iPad. Apple wants $2.5 billion in damages – a record in a patent case — and a court order forbidding Samsung from selling some of its most popular phones and tablets in the United States. Samsung claims that Apple is the one stealing, and that some of Apple’s patents are invalid because they are so commonplace.
With respect to at least one of Apple’s patents, Samsung has a point. A patent at the heart of the dispute. Design Patent 504,889 — which lists Steve Jobs and Apple design guru Jonathan Ive, among others, as the “inventors” — is a claim for a rectangular electronic device with rounded corners. That’s right, Apple is claiming control over rectangles. The full claim is only 2 lines long, and amazingly broad – Apple is claiming all devices with the basic shape shown here. Read More »
Apple has just released an app called Podcasts which, yes, helps you download and manage podcast from the iTunes store.
I haven’t used the app yet so I cannot comment on it — some of the iTunes reviews indicate some fixes are needed — but I have to say that I do like Apple’s taste in the podcasts it has chosen for its promo materials: Read More »
I happen to have one, and it’s been working without a hitch since 2006. I’ve never had an incentive to replace it for a few key reasons: I think it’s aesthetically pleasing, storage space isn’t a problem for me, and battery life isn’t a problem either — I use it on my daily commute. I also prefer buttons to touch screens.
Here’s the hidden cost of a recall, though: Apple will send the new product to me 6 to 8 weeks after they’ve received my old one. Read More »
As a fan of both Walter Isaacson and of Apple products, I have happily begun reading (along with a few million others) the new Steve Jobs biography. So far I find it to be as compelling as expected. Just a few pages into it, I was struck by this thought: as much as Jobs is known for the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc., I couldn’t help but think that the book itself is in some ways Jobs’s final product.
In the introduction, “How This Book Came To Be,” Isaacson — who, it should be clear, is a true heavyweight — relates how Jobs approached and repeatedly pursued him to write the book. The terms were clear: Jobs would participate fully, and give others (including those who might be hostile to him) the go-ahead to do the same, and Jobs would have no right to approve or edit material. “He didn’t seek any control over what I wrote, or even ask to read it in advance,” Isaacson writes. That said, it becomes clear that Jobs was infinitely interested in shaping the book. To wit:
His only involvement came when my publisher was choosing the cover art. When he saw an early version of a proposed over treatment, he disliked it so much that he asked to have input in designing a new version. I was both amused and willing, so I readily assented.
I saw the news this morning when I looked at my iPad. Whenever I wake up, the first thing I do, before even going to the bathroom, is turn on the iPad and check the news. My heart sank when I saw the headline: Steve Jobs, dead at 56.
From my first Apple product (an Apple II+), to doing all my homework in college on the first Macintosh, to reading this news on my iPad, to typing this sentence on my Macbook Air, so much of my life has been influenced and changed by this man. Very sad day. My question for readers (please answer in the comments section) is: what was your first Apple product?
And now, here’s an essay I’ve written about Jobs:
I was standing right next to Steve Jobs in 1989, and felt completely inadequate. The guy was incredibly wealthy, good-looking: a nerd super-rockstar who had just convinced my school to buy a bunch of NeXT computers, which were in fact the best machines to program on at the time. I wanted to be him, badly. Read More »
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Apple unveiled a new iPhone yesterday. At what turned out to be a relatively muted Apple product launch, it was new CEO Tim Cook‘s first chance at replacing Steve Jobs as product pitchman. It seems he did just fine.
The new iPhone is loaded with cool new features that the market was anticipating, with one exception: it’s not called the iPhone 5, it’s called the iPhone 4S.
By the time it became obvious that Cook wasn’t going to introduce anything called an iPhone 5, (about 1:50 pm EST yesterday), the stock price began to plummet pretty quickly, as you can see in the chart below. From 12:15 pm to 3:15 pm, the price dropped more than 6%. Also, note the spike in volume at the bottom. Read More »