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Emma Gannon Headshot

What's Mine is Yours?

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A topic that seems to be cropping up as of late in various forms is this idea of ownership. I'm not talking houses or cars, or something you purchase and then get a receipt for. I'm talking 'things' that aren't as obvious as the ownership of materialistic objects. More like that 'big idea' you came up with at a work brainstorm, which has now been signed, sealed and delievered to a client with not so much as even a pat on the back in your direction. The ownership of ideas, creations, concepts is difficult to pin down, and in this day and age of Internet overload, how do we clamp down on owned property online? What about the millions of retweets without a source, copycat brands in the supermarket or daily news syndication across popular online aggregators? Can we say copying is the same as stealing? Can you own a word? Does the social network site 'own' that photo of you and your family on a country walk that you so casually uploaded onto the World Wide Web? Trust me, I could go on.

This discussion takes me back a few years to my sixth form common room. Where, me and my best friend would make up (ridiculous) words and see how long it would take before they caught on. Turns out it never took that long, and before you knew it, our silly slang words would be circulating around the oestrogen-filled gossipy common room, much to our English teachers dismay of course. This was us being outrageously arrogant, always thinking we were the creators of the latest trends, convinced that the whole world were identity fraudsters and we were the pioneering thought-leaders with our revised vocabulary in tow. Of course not. These words already existed and it was preposterous to think we were in a position to be inventing things, let alone stamp our name on it. I've seen examples of this before, when a genuine idea is born only to see it already exist somewhere else, by someone else. Of course it would be silly to have such a narrow view, like thinking every scripted love story is only a rip off of Romeo and Juliet, but it is always an interesting debate to see how far people often go to protect their ideas.

On this topic of identity theft, something caught my eye a few months back. The god, the giant, the greatness that is, Louboutin, 100% known and loved for the incredibe towering heel, shiny leather fabric and most importantly of all: The Red Sole. The epitomy of striking brand identity. I wondered what would happen if someone tried to copy such a recognisable brand characteristic of a product. Would Louboutin sue any footwear company that uses any form of red-sole on their shoe? Apparently he would.

Earlier this year, Christian Louboutin filed a trademark infringement against Yves Saint Laurent for copying his trademark red sole in a Spring/Summer collection. Louboutin says he came up with the idea for the red sole in 1992 by painting the base of a shoe with nail polish. (You can follow frequent updates on this shoe fight on the Vogue website.) This led me to ponder: Where is the line with brand identity? YSL hadn't stolen his name, the shape, the material, brand message or equity values, but they had put the same primary colour on the sole of their shoes. This led me to think that identity is based on what people perceive you to be, just as much as what you think of yourself. And, whatever this perceived identity may be, it must be captured and protected at all costs.

What do you think?