design infringements

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
sixfink
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: 03/08/2011 - 17:46
Posts: 517
Location: Krautland, home of beer and pretzels
design infringements

There are some decent lights out there from certan east Asian companies; which share a lot with their American brethren.

I remember a time in the 80's when custom authorities kept themselves busy confiscating and destroying whole shipments of counterfeits from overseas due to design infringements. Freight containers full of maglite clones being flattened by a road roller, and things like that. Strange enough, that only happened at airports and cargo seaports; when clones had made it to the stores, nobody seemed to care about them anymore. They never sold as well as the original brands, mostly because they were lacking quality big time back then.

So, concerning the law, what is the deal on this, nowadays? Are some of our favourite lights licensed, or does nobody care anymore about certain design similarities?

Or have the basic design patents run out already, making it possible for a foreign company to crank out almost identical units under a different brand name?

okwchin
okwchin's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 1 week ago
Joined: 01/07/2011 - 04:41
Posts: 1164
Location: Australia

Regardless, there is always seemingly a market for copy goods. This is especially true in asian cultures, and accordingly we see many of such products available to external markets.

 

Interms of laws, it doesn't seem to stop companies trying.

"like everyone else - I’m looking for my next “last” flashlight" -  ohnonothimagain

brted
brted's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 3 days ago
Joined: 01/12/2010 - 19:44
Posts: 2371
Location: Atlanta

Brinkmann was actually calling their clones Maglites (I have one). They also took a pretty unique design and copied it outright. Plus Brinkmann was selling their lights in stores, so that was easy enough to stop through US courts. I don't see how they could stop this stuff from being direct shipped from China. It's like fake Rolexes.

sixfink
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: 03/08/2011 - 17:46
Posts: 517
Location: Krautland, home of beer and pretzels

I wouldn't go as far and compare a fake Rolex to, lets say, a SolarForce L2.

While the Chinese crank out some really well-built 6P clones, they can still be distinguished from the SureFires with ease. Three ridges, reminiscent of cooling fins, on the head, a different approach on the "weaponized" bezel, and a different tail switch assembly make it easy.

Yet, I was wondering if those alterations would be enough to hold up in court. All of this in theory, of course.

 

For example, a couple of years ago, we wanted to create a badge for a larger Ford-based car club in this region. Although it did not contain the Ford brand name, nor any other names affiliated with the Ford Motor Company, we were strongly advised not to make or offer even a single set. The emblem consisted of the club's motto written across a tricolor crest, slightly reminiscent of the fender emblems found on early Mustangs. Since this fell in a time when all kinds of companies were happy to sue everybody only for mentioning their brand names on private websites, let alone on profit oriented businesses, we kindly asked FoMoCo first before even fabricating a prototype. Ever so kindly, their lawyers found that using the tricolor crest scheme (although the shape had been altered significantly) was already considered a design patent infringement, and let us know to better not pursue any club badge projects.

Oxy Moron
Oxy Moron's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: 03/24/2010 - 13:55
Posts: 813
Location: USA
brted wrote:
I don't see how they could stop this stuff from being direct shipped from China. It's like fake Rolexes.
Well, from a legal point of view, they could. And by 'they', I mean both the government and the third party whose rights are supposedly being infringed upon. It's just that in the grand scheme of things, flashlights don't really matter to the people who call the shots. At least that's how it looks to me. BATFE has relatively innocent stuff held at the border all the time and I've yet to hear of a case that didn't eventually result in forfeiture. I guess it's just part of the cost of doing business. And then there are Swiss watchmakers, who will happily sue the pants off of anyone importing fake watches if they feel there's money to be made (or, money to be recovered, depending on your point of view). And since enforcing any judgement in China is virtually impossible, few companies really bother to try. In a sense, copies are an accepted reality.
dimeotane
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 01/09/2011 - 16:56
Posts: 118

This topic often comes up in 'gear' forums.  It's a good debate. Respectfully I have a few points to make on the matter. I'll step up on the soap box to rant now...

 I think people who are really against the idea of people buying 'clones', need to consider if they actually can tell what is and what isn't 'legit'.  Over the years, I've come across a lot of snobbery, against products made in China.  For some reason, some people see an item from China and they immediately, like a knee jerk reaction, think it must be a clone or patent rip off.  Is this fair, or just prejudice?   

At one point in time Xerox was the brand for a copier, and Kleenex the brand for a facial tissue.  But now there are many other companies in the western world producing photo copiers and facial tissue.  Who knows who was the original patent holder, and who is selling another similar product, and if it is legit. Who cares when using a Canon or generic brand Kleenex?  Many of us (where I'm from) all say, pass me a "Kleenex", but we don't really know or care what brand the stuff is, we just want to blow our nose.   How about the can opener patented in 1855... no one cares today if the item we bought to open our cans is legit... we can't even imagine such a thing ever having or needing patent protection!

Does Zippo Inc. remain the only company in the world with the rights to make a napatha oil lighter with a metal body, lid and flint sparker?  It's such a basic design.  Unless you investigate the actual patenting rights and laws... who knows?  I like my Star brand lighter that looks quite similar to the Zippo brand.  I'll bet Zippo Inc. would love for everyone in the world to believe that no one else can ever produce a similar lighter.  Does Zippo Inc. here in the Western world have the legal right to tell every other factory in the whole darn world what they can or can't create, because Zippo did it first?  Talk about limiting human progress and innovation.

Imagine if the Chinese, who did it first, prevented the rest of the world from making their own black powder, block printing, silk, the compass, paper,  and so on.  The list is endless.  But of course today, powerful western countries will try and do this today with our technologies we 'invent'.

I've noticed lately that many of the products for sale in our stores that were made in China, are repackaged and rebranded differently by a different distributor.  Sometimes you'll see the same product sold in a different store under another brand.  Who invented this product originally? Could it be that it was a Chinese designer?  Who knows?  I get the impression that many of our companies are simply looking through catalogs of items being made in China and deciding which product they want to put their brand on, and buy distribution rights to. 

 Also, the very item we respect as 'legit' was made in China.  On many Chinese sites there are knives branded with corporate logos that are about the exact size and shape as what is shown by the company as the 'current model'.  Many people will immediately scream 'clone' or 'rip off'...

 For example, I bought on Ebay a Gerber branded knife, that looks almost identical to the EVO jr. The Evo Jr. when in retail packaging at a store is MSRP for $20.  When I buy it from China it's $10.  Now do you think that if Gerber has a 100 spare blades that didn't make the quality control that they dump them into the scrap metal pile?  Really?  How about the Gerber contracted factory that also needs to turn a profit despite low profit margins?  Who really knows if the knife I bought, from the OEM without packaging, is 'legit'.  Ok, so it wasn't bought in this country at my local stores.  I don't really want to support Walmart, and I think the taxes here are far too high anyway.  

 When people start hating on the made in China gear, they soon go all patriotic about losing factory jobs to foreign countries.   Yet one of the biggest employers here is Toyota.  If I start hating on foreign auto companies, or buyers of foreign brand vehicles, for the sake of American motor companies, I start promoting the idea that most people in my city should be unemployed.   That just doesn't makes sense. 

   Consider why a major western company has contracted/built a factory in China in the first place. Perhaps the blame lies in Corporate greed and expectations for large profit margins by shareholders?  Maybe we need to lower our minimum wage in Western countries to be more competitive with the 3 billion workers in China and India?  Perhaps globalization is a 'game changer' and people need to stop thinking in a paradigm that made sense hundreds of years ago.

In China, the scale of the society and rate of growth is so large it's mind blowing. There are 'copies' of 'copies' of 'copies'. There are so many factories producing a variation of the same product, no one can really determine what is 'authentic', except if the end buyer is happy that it works and does what you want.  So few really care who 'invented' it first.  If I'm living on less than a dollar a day, and struggling to make ends meet, I'm just happy to get basic tools at a cost I can afford.

Currently, workers from poor countries are somehow travelling thousands of miles across countries just so they can get back breaking jobs.  Jobs that no one here is willing to do for minimum wage. It starts at a young age, the 'sense of entitlement' that our young people have had for decades.  It's scary how often I observe teenagers being unwilling to put forward a fraction of the effort it's going to take for them to survive in an increasingly competitive world.  But what are the chances we're willing to actually be competitive with workers in China and India and work for a minimum wage that's a couple dollars a day without benefits?  What are the chances our society is willing to pay 10 times as much for products to be made locally by local workers at current wages? Such things are unlikely, so people continue to buy inexpensive products made overseas.  

Thankyou for actually giving me any attention. I'll step off the soap box now...

jekostas
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 10 months ago
Joined: 11/30/2010 - 03:09
Posts: 576
Location: Surrey

Fair rant dimeotane, and I don't mind the block of text.

Just a quick heads up, Gerber outright stole the design of the Gerber Evo and Evo Jr. from CRKT (it's the M16 EDC in a different color scheme essentially), so they're not really innocent either.

Melven
Offline
Last seen: 2 weeks 2 days ago
Joined: 01/12/2011 - 12:59
Posts: 143
Location: Utah, USA

You make some nice points Dimeotane.  Globalization is helping my company expand their business.  If you only look at the negatives of globalization and do not try to take advantage of the new opportunities it affords then you will slowly go out of business.  My previous employer was not willing to make the changes the new global ecomony requires and so began a decline.  Thats why I changed jobs, I wanted to be in a company that would seize opportunities and not just complain about the erosion of their traditional market from foreign competition.

sixfink
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: 03/08/2011 - 17:46
Posts: 517
Location: Krautland, home of beer and pretzels

Oh, please don't get the tenor of my opening post wrong.

I never meant bashing the Chinaman, I was merely wondering if their versions were legit in terms of design patents.

In fact, I am happy for well-built Chinese products like those from Solarforce, and others. One guy at work is a security guard who always complained about how expensive SureFire was, until I told him about SolarForce. He was suspicious of them at first, but then I just told him they made officially licensed versions for their own market. I know I shouldn't have said so - but now he is a VERY happy owner of a tan L2 with a 5-mode dropin (side note - apparently, there are people who find those silly strobe modes actually useful), two 16340rec and a charger. All for much less than what he would have paid for a genuine 6P.

The low quality standards on many Chinese no-brand export products that were sold dead cheap over here (we probably all share our experiences with dirt-cheap, imported wrenches that snap in half on the first rusted bolt, and the like) were the direct result of Western contractors and importers actually demanding low quality for a low price. On the other hand, Mao Zedong did his share as well. If only he had allowed his people to work, build and produce in a way they were capable of (and probably wanted to) in the 1960s, we wouldn't be where we are at now.

Don
Don's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 01/12/2010 - 16:32
Posts: 6617
Location: Scotland

If you have to have surgery, the instruments used will have been made in Peshawar, Pakistan. If they aren't making surgical instruments they will have been making AK-47/AK-74 clones. Or if they are behind the times, Chinese Type 56 clones.

I know which one I'd prefer they make. Same goes for China. All of the nation.

 

Design clones...

I've been shot at with the real Russian thing, not to mention Pakistani and Chinese clones of it. If scumbags must shoot at me, I'd prefer that they shoot at me with Chinese/Pakistani/Afghani clones rather than the real Russian thing.

That said, the last person to send bullets my way used a 55 year old Chinese Browning High Power clone. Fortunately that was in 1985. And has not happened since. Somewhere I still have one of the bullets.

When it comes to firearms pointed at me - cheap rubbish is what I hope they are using. I am still breathing because Type 56's aren't all that accurate....

Been there - luckily survived that.

 

We choose where we spend our money.

 

Choose right.

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...

dimeotane
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: 01/09/2011 - 16:56
Posts: 118


Oh, please don't get the tenor of my opening post wrong.

I never meant bashing the Chinaman, I was merely wondering if their versions were legit in terms of design patents.

 

@sixfink  Oh nothing against your original posting.  I think you raised a good question and topic.  I got writing and lots of thoughts turned into a big big rant of a post.  Hope  it didn't hijack your original point.

@Don what an excellent point from personal experience.  I've never been shot at and hope it stays that way.

sixfink
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: 03/08/2011 - 17:46
Posts: 517
Location: Krautland, home of beer and pretzels

Howdy back, 

 

dimeotane, don't worry. Your explications on this topic are well-founded. I merely wanted to clarify my position behind my starting point.

Don: whoa, were those clones really that much worse than the original Avtomat Kalashnikova? Never fired one, let alone being shot at with one.

 

Simon


Don
Don's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 01/12/2010 - 16:32
Posts: 6617
Location: Scotland

Quality control of devices issued to liberation movements/terrorists/freedom fighters tends not to be a priority. Cost is.

Nor does maintenance appear to be much of a priority to the users.

 

And there has been an awful lot of combat in southern Africa. And an awful lot of weapons imported.

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...

Boaz
Boaz's picture
Online
Last seen: 8 min 47 sec ago
Joined: 11/07/2010 - 09:31
Posts: 7680
Location: Birthplace of Aviation

the good lord wants you so .Those that were supposed to be dead ...are dead . 

What i think is strabge about china copying is that the originals are good and then they just keep making the copies worse and worse till it's so bad no one wants it anymore  . It makes me want to buy everything as soon as it hits the market ...yeah that's the reason ..huh??

       καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν

                            

       Dc-fix diffuser film  >…  http://budgetlightforum.com/node/42208

Don
Don's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 01/12/2010 - 16:32
Posts: 6617
Location: Scotland

Boaz wrote:

What i think is strabge about china copying is that the originals are good and then they just keep making the copies worse and worse till it's so bad no one wants it anymore  . It makes me want to buy everything as soon as it hits the market ...yeah that's the reason ..huh??

 

The baneful influence of the bean counters.

Not just a rich country phenomenon.

Let engineers run a company and it will go bust, but will be missed. Think HP when it used to provide stuff people actually wanted.

They make a lot more money selling ink nowadays.

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...