Webcast and Blog: Christopher Sprigman Delivers First Jaszi Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property

October 6, 2012
Jenna Gough

On November 1, 2012, PIJIP hosted the Inaugural Peter Jaszi Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property. Professor Jaszi’s students, colleagues, and fellow academics, both past and present, filled the audience and further attested to the influence and impact of Professor Jaszi’s nearly 40 year career in the field of intellectual property at WCL and abroad.


The evening was highlighted by Christopher Sprigman’s lecture entitled: The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation. Sprigman’s animated lecture discussed the success of lucrative industries that continue to innovate and thrive not because of copyright protection, but rather because of copying itself. Sprigman offered the fashion, comedy, and culinary industries as examples of industries experiencing high levels of innovation despite low levels of intellectual property protection. These industries have harnessed the use of copying to promote creativity and increase profits, while often customizing industry specific solutions to remedy copying that may be unjust.

For example, Sprigman noted how comedians often incorporate, alter, or verbatim copy other comedians’ jokes. Instead of relying on the protections of copyright law, comedians have developed an internal system of sanctions, including warnings and performance boycotts to remedy or deter offending behavior.

Sprigman said that innovation in the fashion industry can also be attributed to copying: the promulgation of a trend is the result of copying another design, while incorporating slight alterations or variations to accommodate a new or larger market sector. As a trend becomes more widespread, it loses its appeal to consumers who desire “to be in fashion,” and thus a consumer demand for a new cycle of fashion design innovation is born. And according to Sprigman, it is the permissibility of imitation, not the right to exclusivity, that makes such innovation possible.  

About the Peter Jaszi Lecture Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property

PIJIP’s Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property Law is named in recognition of the extraordinary contributions of Professor Peter Jaszi to the study of intellectual property at WCL and in the world at large, and in particular for his lasting contributions to the elevation of the public interest as the paramount concern of the law. PIJIP accepts contributions to support the Peter Jaszi Distinguished Lecture.

Support the Lecture 

Supporters may make a pledge at www.wcl.american.edu/go/give, and designate their gift to the lecture by using the “Other” field. Checks mailed to the Development Office should include “Peter Jaszi Lecture” in the memo line.


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