Ayanna G Hawkins
Argosy University Atlanta
March 11, 2015
Intellectual property is any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others. The ownership of intellectual property inherently creates a limited monopoly in the protected property (Cornell University Law School, 2012). There are four categories that make up intellectual property. These include copyright, trademark, trade secrets and patent. There are numerous situations where intellectual property is compromised by users that do not follow guidelines regarding patent and trademark. In this paper, I will discuss how Normandale violated patent and trademark laws, while compromising their ethical and social responsibility.
The legal system affords specific constitutional rights and safeguards for proprietors of property. Intellectual property (IP) includes creations used in commerce, such as inventions, works or art and literature, symbols and designs, and names and images (World Intellectual Property Organization, n.d.). The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA, 2015) explained that “federal patent, trademark and copyright laws and state trade secret laws” (para. 1) are the basis of IP protections and rights of owners. The AIPLA (2015) also noted, “In general, patents protect inventions of tangible things; copyrights protect various forms of written and artistic expression; and trademarks protect a name or symbol that identifies the source of goods or services” (para. 1). Clothing designs and related names and images are subject to IP trademark protection.
Mathis, Inc. designs and manufactures high-end women’s garments with a special focus on winter fashion. Mathis designs are sold in Normandale, a well known retail giant with mall locations all across the country. However, low sales of the Mathis clothing resulted in limited profit for Normandale. Normandale then sought the services of Countess Lori-Ann (CLA), a competitor of Mathis. CLA was hired to make a fashion line identical to Mathis’ line at a price significantly lower than Mathis. This sale of counterfeit versions of Mathis’ clothing was an attempt by Normandale to generate a profit. Counterfeit merchandise has been around since the early 1900’s. The manufacturing of counterfeit merchandise has become one of the biggest underground businesses in the United States. This business is one the most profitable industries in the world. However, the impacts have been nothing but negative on the economy, other businesses and consumers.
The actions of Normandale were completely unethical because the counterfeiting of merchandise, especially with expensive stylish products such as Mathis, puts customers in a position where they are paying high prices for poor quality brands while Normandale profits. From a business perspective, Normandale knew that Mathis would not profit from the sale of the counterfeit merchandise, even though they were the original designers that put in the creative work, time and effort. Therefore, not only was counterfeiting Mathis designs an infringement on the designers’ creative property, it also was an issue related to business ethics. Business ethics are “defined by rules, principles, and standards for deciding what is morally right or wrong when doing business” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2015, para. 1). For example, Mathis designs are patented. Patents give inventors the freedom to employ their creations in areas of sales, or to collect earnings by transferring that creation to another person of interest. Patent rights are valid for up to a period of 20 years, depending on the kind of invention. Eligible inventions include new equipment, mechanical improvements, and contrived merchandise. Patent protection can be refused if an invention is clear in design, not practical, or ethically offensive. In addition to the designs having a patent,