Copyrighted Clothing: As I drove from North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh on I-40, to the coastal town of Wilmington, I got bored. Thus, I turned on the radio, National Public Radio (NPR) to be exact. And I heard a report about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding dress…of all things! Apparently, there is a new law up for debate, about copyrighting fashion designs. (I did not know the difference between patenting and copyrighting, and I read about it athttp://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/whatis.htm).
I am not a regular subscriber to People Magazine, so I had to google an image of Chelsea’s dress, and found it athttp://www.chinawholesalelots.com/blog/2010/08/02/chelsea-clintons-wedding-dress-vera-wang-strapless-gown-4/. As a side note, she looks great.
Anywho, the NPR report was detailing how, within days, Chelsea’s wedding dress was ‘ripped off and remade’ by wannabe designers trying to imitate Vera Wang. The host/ invited guest speakers somehow concluded that if fashion designs were copyrighted, consumers would get a less expensive, higher quality product. If copyright protected fashion, wannabe designers would have to take more time to make a popular design slightly different than the original (increasing product variety) and may also take more time to invest in higher quality production. I had a hard time following the logic…mainly because of who I was meeting for dinner in Wilmington.
Now for Patented Paste, or Plumpynut, (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, RUTF): I was headed to Wilmington, to talk with Paul Wilkes of Home of Hope India (http://www.homeofhopeindia.org/) about Plumpynut and other RUTF possibilities for Indian orphans. Plumpynut is a nutrient and energy dense, micronutrient rich, and bacterial resistant “lipid paste” (nutrition lingo for fatty goopie stuff) that has been shown to be quite effective in treating malnutrition in developing countries. The guy who invented it (Andre Briend) had his Eureka moment when staring at a jar of Nutella.
However, Briend happens to be connected to Nutriset, a French company, who now owns the patent to a lifesaving recipe. We’re not talking about light bulbs, we’re not talking about electronic toothbrushes, we are talking about a food product that is like a medicine and helps dwindling kids become healthy and thriving kids. If we extrapolate the logic of the NPR copyrighted clothes argument, a patented paste should increase the quality of new recipes for RUTF, while lowering cost for consumers. The question is: Are we seeing higher quality RUTF for lower cost??? The answer seems to be, from what I can tell, NOT YET.
From my cursory knowledge of the subject, one main reason seems to be that there are organizations that purchase the majority of RUTF (e.g., Unicef), which have very specific requirements for the product quality. In general, such requirements are a good thing, ensuring that rogue food products do not hurt more kids than are helped. However, it is hard for free-market enterprise to compete with a patented paste, with a well-respected and well-tested recipe.
Some are stepping up to the plate in the Copenhagen Unicef bidding wars, so we shall see!
by Stephanie B Jilcott
(image via: NYTIMES–click image to go to a background story on plumpynut)