A Bow Tie Patent
Having said that jackets and dresses cannot be patented or copyrighted, I was fascinated to learn that a bow tie once had one.
During the 1950s, the clothing retailer Brooks Brothers had patented their bow tie technology. A recent WSJ article referred to the patent because an attorney who saw a Brooks Brothers bow tie with an expired patent number is suing them. It is illegal to display an out-of-date patent on an item.
You might want to look at patents which attorneys say have expired on Etch-a-sketch, turkey pop-up timers, the original Wooly Willy, and some covers from Solo Cup Co. on Starbucks coffee cups. According to the article, business firms that have forgotten to check when their patent protection has ended and still note it on the product, are breaking the law.
The Economic Lesson
This returns us to the general issue of intellectual property rights. A copyright refers to the expression of ideas and lasts for 70 years beyond its creator’s life. By contrast, a patent applies to an invention and can be enforced for 20 years.
In this interesting econtalk interview, believing they should be longer, author Mark Helprin challenges the duration of literary copyrights.