Winners of The Knockoff Economy Photo Contest

We are excited to the announce the winner of The Knockoff Economy contest for best photo of a knockoff. In fact, we are excited to announce that we have two winners (we had a lot of great entries, but these two jumped out). And, since they kind of go together in an odd way, we decided to award them both the prize. Winners receive a signed copy of The Knockoff Economy plus a copy of the new album Just Tell Me That You Want Me, featuring covers (i.e., legal knockoffs) of Fleetwood Mac songs by artists like Karen Elson, Lykke Li, and The New Pornographers.

Our congratulations to Donna Ivanisevic for the Louis Vuitton condom (originally created and sold, ever so briefly, for World AIDS Day) and to Terry Stedman (disclosure: a former student of Kal’s) for the Louis Vuitton Virgin Mary:

The Authors of The Knockoff Economy Answer Your Questions

We want to thank everyone for their questions -- it's great to see people responding to, critiquing and, in some cases, tweaking, the ideas we set out in The Knockoff Economy. We are fascinated by the complex relationship between copying and creativity -- and we're thankful that many of you are as well.  So, to the Q&A . . .

Q. The issue that concerns my industry most is internet sales of prescription skin products such as retin-A and hydroquinone. Some might be counterfeit, but many are probably diverted products. The manufacturer sells them to a physician, the unscrupulous physician sells them on the internet at a deep discount, the patient may be hurt by expired or dangerous medications or may not use them correctly even if they are real. This hurts legitimate physicians by drawing business away from them, but also hurts a manufacturer’s reputation. (Apparently, people who have qualms about buying Viagra online don’t think twice before buying skin medications from those same sources.)

Do you plan to do any research in this area? Will you be looking at diversion in addition to counterfeits?

Why Knockoffs Can Help Build a Strong Brand

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
CONCLUSION

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.