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Kedron Thomas

This chapter explores the cultural and moral context of trademark law violations in highland Guatemala. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork with indigenous Maya men who make clothing that features unauthorized reproductions of popular fashion brands, I analyze what accusations of envy, individualism, and improper copying among people labeled “pirates” by intellectual property (IP) regimes reveal about their relationships to international law and a changing political economy in Central America. I demonstrate that copying and competitive behavior are evaluated by Maya clothing manufacturers in light of norms and values that promote the sharing of knowledge and resources within a somewhat loose property system and amid ideologies of race and nation that encourage class-based solidarity among Maya people. These normative models and business practices parochialize official portraits of business ethics and innovation built into IP regimes and challenge assumptions about progress, improvement, and ordering on which the international development industry is also based.