August 26, 2011, 3:57 PM — Every once in a while, when the patent lawsuits get too thick and there's too much noisy effort to protect "intellectual property" that's actually just a head start making something everyone knows how to make, computer industry pundits start worrying that all the patent protection will keep companies that are actually innovative from creating anything new.
Take a lesson from the fashion business, which makes new things all the time, but makes most of its money copying "innovation" from other companies whose creative addition was to reproduce old designs that hadn't been revived for a while.
Of course, the fashion industry move fast, burn through a lot of money and make a huge impact contributing very little, but there are other lessons it can teach companies in the computer business as well.
Lessons like: When you go too far trying to protect your intellectual property (even when it's legitimately intellectual and property) you make yourself look so ridiculous you end up losing status from a fight you hoped would make you look good.
Case in point: The Hell's Angels are suing Amazon.com and LA-based fashion house Wildfox Couture over a T-shirt that is blank white, with letters in black reading "My Boyfriend s a Hells Angel" (sic).
The shirts have angel wings on the back that infringe on the Hells Angels skull-and-wings "death head" logo as well as its name.
"We bring these lawsuits from time to time not just to punish, but to educate," Fritz Clapp, attorney for the Hells Angles Corporation, told the Los Angeles Times. "Somebody thought erroneously that Hells Angels is a generic term."
The Angels' reputation for protecting their reputation involves more stomping than suing, but the reality is that the outlaw motorcycle club is incorporated, has trademarked its name and logos and has sued other fashion houses, including Alexander McQueen for selling "knuckle dusters" with the death head logo as well as other merchandise.