Knockoffs : Okay or Harmful for American Companies?
Copy catting products and making knockoffs for profit. That’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around today. Is it theft, sly business, is it accepted as a norm, is it ok if you can’t afford the real product? I feel like a civil discourse is needed to help me really formulate what drives it.
Action Camera Knockoffs
We have all seen product knockoffs. For years the GoPro has had very deliberate knockoffs. They look almost identical. The price however, is much different. There are times when you can buy a half dozen knockoffs for the price of one GoPro. The function is similar enough that these are mass produced and sold via eBay or Amazon. You see more each year. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? GoPro spent a lot of time and money into Research and Development to produce their camera. Is it right that someone copies these efforts, reverse engineers some stuff and then takes away potential market share?
Here is why I think the question is important. If the pattern of knockoffs continues to undercut the people who did all the work to develop the cool new product, are we muzzling the desire for companies to invest in new products?
Coolers and Tumblers
We could talk coolers too. YETI vs RTIC vs Ozark Trail etc, etc. Everyone is in the cooler game now because it can be highly profitable. Or it was. Now that WalMart and their Ozark Trail brand is selling very similar products (knockoffs) of the YETI line, the desire for a product that does what YETI does without the price tag, has been met. People who can’t justify $30 for a cup, spend $8 and are happy. That’s good for them but is it short sighted?
Let me answer that. I don’t think it does, but I do think it makes it even more expensive.
Built into your end consumer costs,(instead of just parts, labor, research and development), is now legal fees to sue purveyors of knockoffs. It’s a thing believe it or not. The cost of patents, patent lawyers, filings, and all the other goodness that goes into idea protection is ramped up even more to pay for litigating attorneys to stop companies from violating patents.
They might stop, but instead of innovating and laying out the cash to protect their own ideas, the knockoffs just pocket the money they made in the time it took to make all the filings for a cease and desist and then an appeal, and start knocking off something else. Sell it until you’re sued and then find something else to copy.
Want to see where else this has invaded? Look at some kayaks. Especially fairly new brands. I find myself thinking “Wow, that hatch looks familiar. Wow that pedal drive is the spitting image of… Wow, isn’t this the same console?”
It is easy, cheap, and profitable to copy, steal, and knockoff. The question is, do we as consumers even care anymore? We cringe at the idea of buying stolen goods but run toward the chance to buy stolen ideas. That’s messed up. Ideas, education, study, practice, rewards for hard work, those are all thrown out the window for a quick buck way too quickly. And as consumers, should we be better than to buy these stolen ideas or should we just mind our own business and take a stance like “Let the businesses sort it out?”
I’m very interested in your thoughts. Let’s keep it civil please.