Knockoffs : Okay or Harmful for American Companies?

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3 Responses

  1. Lee says:

    I am in the auto repair industry and this has been going on for years in it. Around the early eighties the box store auto parts stores began to take off,before it was mostly mom and pop type stores. The big stores could buy in bulk and undercut the others eventually putting most all of them out of business. Also they sold cheaper foreign parts that were not the same quality as the domestic made parts forcing companies to make lower quality parts to be able to compete pricewise with them. Today most all parts are cheap junk that doesn’t compare to the OE parts but thats about all you can buy due to the good companies going out of business or making cheap junk as well. If the outdoor industry follows this same path it will soon be the end of smaller high quality companies. Another thing,in order to produce ,ship and distribute this cheap merchandise you have to figure the costs are cut in labor and supplies,near slave like labor and cheap materials being used in most foreign countries where the workers and the enviroment aren’t protected by laws as stringent as in the U.S.,bad all the way around for everyone

  2. DrTom says:

    Interesting thoughts but there are a few things to consider:

    Of the 3 category examples you listed above, only 1 of them, the action camera, falls into the knock-off category with a risk of patent infringement.

    In cases like the Yeti Rambler, or Yeti vs. RTIC, the ensuing lawsuits were primarily over trade dress, not the invention itself or patent infringement. Trade dress meaning that the product or it’s packaging, branding or marketing look too similar to the plaintiff’s design.

    Interestingly, all 3 stainless steel cup companies you pictured have their cups manufactured at the same place. Consumers don’t know that and often assume a quality difference because of the lower price when in reality, they’re identical — back to the trade dress issues when a premium brand can prove consumer’s are buying, not just their product, but the experience around their brand.

    In the case of Yeti, they’re a premium brand that commands premium prices but not because they have a higher cost, or any of the concerns you mentioned above. They have a higher price because they’re an aspirational brand and they can.

    Several years ago, Louis Vuitton encountered stagnant sales growth. Their solution — raise prices steeply! This positioned them as “the” premium brand allowing them to capitalize on both the additional profit and the increase in units sold for being the top-of-the-line brand. Yeti went to straight for the top and brilliantly carved out a premium slot in a sector no one thought possible.

    In the kayak examples, all we’re seeing here is the evolution of competitive innovation. Often companies will source parts from the same source and unless that part is centrifugal to the sale of the product, trade dress issues don’t apply.

    So to sum it up, of course piracy is wrong both digitally, physically and conceptually and you have valid points just ill-placed examples. Based on the wide net that this article casts — should we boycott products that are similar to older brand’s products and disregard the price points the companies have chosen to play in or the innovations they brought to the table that prevented patent-infringment? If so, then there’s goes Publix brand food products, Dick’s Field and Stream products, Bass Pro Shops products, Cabela’s products, every brand Wal-Mart or Target has purchased and whittles the American consumer market down to monopolized, high-end brands only.

  3. Sean says:

    One of my pursuits tends to be photo equipment. I have many $$$ invested in expensive professional level, name brand equipment. I like name brand stuff because it tends to be better and more dependable. However, a few years ago after continuous frustration with high-end name brand electronic triggering devices not working properly because the manufacturer had not kept up with (my opinion) advances in electronics because they had the lions share of the market and had an established reputation as the best, I decided to try some cheap Chinese knock-offs. I mean ultra cheap knock offs! Guess what? They actually work ever time, have better range, and are disposable priced. I am still using them years later and have since purchased more of their knock-offs as they are now my preferred brand for electronic triggers. What I have noticed was the original name brand manufacture that I dumped is now producing a better product. I have come to believe that in many cases “knock-offs” can drive innovation. There are lots of examples; 1911 style pistols, AR15 style rifles, mechanics hand tools, just to name a few. So for me, I only buy OEM if it is better.

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