IP? Never Heard of It. How Do You Spell That?
Roopinder Tara posted on September 18, 2017 | 1261 views

As only China can do, there is a tremendous amount of engineering talent supplied at low cost in the country. Combined with the lower cost of materials and manufacturing, how hard can it be to see a market leading product—whether it is a 3D printer, a CNC machine, an automobile or an airplane—produce another one that performs just as well,  if not better?

China. 2nd biggest in land area. But with the biggest population (1.2 billion) and a unified will unencumbered by democracy, is there any stopping them?

China. 2nd biggest in land area. But with the biggest population (1.2 billion) and a unified will unencumbered by democracy, is there any stopping them?

Indeed, as a recent trip to China has proven, there is little compunction in companies outside of the US and the EU, to honor patents and other IP. In China, copying is a specialty.

A Chinese artist proudly shows a near perfect copy of a masterpiece. (picture from Flux).

A Chinese artist proudly shows a near perfect copy of a masterpiece. (picture from Flux).

Michelangelo’s Pietà is unmercifully reproduced. A van Gogh that takes a Dutch art expert to identify
can be had for $37
. They’ve even taken to reproducing oil paintings, from famous artists and from no-names. Paris’s Montmart is where tourists snatch up oil paintings from “real French painters”, but may be buying the work of a very good copy cat artist in a nearby town (see story in The Australian).

Engineering Products - Is Nothing Sacred?

A handheld scanner I see in China during a press tour looks a little too much like one sold as the 3D System’s Sense. I am told over dinner by a talkative reseller that one of the 3D printers on a factory tour is virtually identical to one made by a European company.

In all fairness, when patents run their course, duplicating technology is no longer illegal.

What’s Next?

If you have a hit product, you are not safe from being copied, undersold and ultimately usurped. Whether it is CAD software, a 3D printer, a Swiss watch or a precision CNC machine, a car or even a commercial airplane. There is no end to the talent, will and sheer numbers of the forces amassing as you read this.

Take, for example, the tech darling that is Apple, with a runaway hit, the iPhone, and a valuation in the billions, more money in the banks (foreign banks mostly, but that’s another story) than the United States.  Go to any major city in China and, sure enough,  every other person seems to be head down, walking, sitting, driving… over a smart phone. Every tenth person has two, dropping or pocketing one, to attend to the other. But it’s rarely an iPhone. Samsung, Huawei are just two very popular brands. In recent months, full page ads for Asian smart phone companies have been appearing in American publications.

How much time does Apple have? For six centuries, China was content on keeping to itself. Now, there’s a global economic expansion, one that has taken on more speed as the US recedes. With technology in engineering and manufacturing under their belt, only sales and marketing remain as barriers. One Chinese CAD company recently blazed its message across Times Square. It cost a bundle and didn’t work out. But if you think of it as an exploration, it will serve as a marketing lesson learned.

It’s not long before some Chinese company will make a big splash on Super Bowl. That's game over. 

Recommended For You