The continuous unification of luxury and tech could create some thorny intellectual property issues. First and foremost, companies and other IP owners will have to determine exactly what part of the law will best protect their products. Trademark law, for instance, will continue to prevent consumer confusion over the source of a product or service, but will the design of a combo watch and phone fall under a utility patent, a design patent or a copyright claim? As a comparison, for decades the law has struggled to keep up with the pace of software development, with judges inexperienced with the technology unsure whether to place software and its code under copyright, patent or an entirely new category of law. Even now, the answer of how to protect tech-lux items is likely some or all of the above, and the best way to figure it out is to consult Fuksa Khorshid’s intellectual property lawyers, who can analyze the particulars of your product. Some comforts of modern life just don’t fit naturally into older paradigms, and so it could go with a luxury-tech crossover.
For instance, technology giant Apple has hired executives from Burberry and Yves Saint Laurent in the past year, hinting at the company’s belief that what sells in fashion retail could also boost sales in tech. Though the connection may not seem obvious, the luxury and technology industries have common beacons of success: strong brands, immediately recognizable trademarks, a penchant for creating the next trends, and a customer base that permanently resides on the cutting edge. Companies in these sectors depend on their ability to identify and develop the bold and new to replace the tried and true – and to persuade customers to pay for replacements for goods they may have purchased in the not so distant past.
Should the tech and luxury fields continue to see industry crossover, this change will reflect a basic shift in consumer behavior in the new millennium: when buying a good, purchasers want to know more than what it is but instead what it can do. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, for instance, is the first attempt at integrating a wristwatch and cell phone; while the watch is still a ubiquitous fashion accessory, many watch-wearers resort to the digital displays on their phones to tell time anyway. The door is open for designers – software and fashion alike – to graft both greater functionality and style into future generations of watchie-talkies and other fashion accessories just waiting to get smart.
Another fallout from a tech-luxury marriage could be a redefinition of each category. The economy has reduced consumer ability to spend lavishly on non-necessities, so companies have attempted either to saturate the market with a technology such that it does become a near-necessity, like a smartphone, or to reposition a purchase as deluxe yet sensible. While consumers will often be willing to spend more on items that they think will afford them status or prestige – a phenomenon known as the Veblen good – today’s buyer wants the satisfaction of getting a lot for a little. Products, then, that look good and work well should become the new premium – hence Apple’s emphasis on its simple but cool designs on both its products and its outlets.
If you own a business, you should always monitor for opportunities to provide value by combining services or styles, and you should maintain awareness of how intellectual property law allows you to prevent others from infringing upon your work. By paying some attention to industry trends, you can help set new ones – and open up new revenue streams to boot. Remember, however, that the prerequisite of stopping infringers is to register your trademarks and copyrighted materials with the federal government first. The registration process is relatively simple, and unchallenged ownership of intellectual property can by itself increase your company’s value. The licensing and transactional opportunities that arise once you have registered intellectual property is another potential source of income.
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