In the past I have written several flaming blog posts about this topic, to then decide to delete or not publish them. Yet as it seems to be a reoccurring theme, I have decided to try to summarize our position in regards to designs being copied…
It is very easy to be categorical and damning when it comes to cheap and cheerful duplicates coming out of factories in the Far East, yet I feel in many ways this is an over-simplification.
What I am not talking about here is about elements of a design being copied and developed further, this is part of a normal evolution of designs over time. After all, no design is thought up in a vacuum, so when a novel design is presented and proves itself fit for the task, it is only natural this feature will be referenced and incorporated into future solutions.
Rather, I am talking about straight out copies of products, with little or no changes.
Take for example the Xinda copy of DMM’s Revolver above.
One is tempted to discount it all as cheap and cheerful rubbish and whoever buys from such a source is taking his or her life in their hands. The truth of the matter is more complex, however. Whilst it may be true that some of these manufacturers have a sketchy history when it comes to quality, others are actually producing high-quality products. So to simply condemn all Far East manufacturing out of hand is certainly an over-simplification.
Our position in this matter has always been that whilst on the one hand one should not over-simplify, it is also important to ask the question of who is doing the type certification for these products? Who ensures and monitors the quality during their whole life cycle? Is the quality consistent? Is the material being used in manufacturing consistently the same and up to spec? Is a seamless traceability from source to end-user guaranteed? What is the social and ecological cost of production? Without answers to these questions I do not see how one can responsibly and confidently use this equipment.
Mind you, if it is plagiarisms you are on the outlook for, there is no need to travel as far as Asia, as this phenomenon is not specific to a geographic region, you can easily find examples for it much closer to home.
Be all that as it may, one could debate this backwards and forwards interminably, but one thing is for sure: the copy/ paste view of product design, where all the financial risk, the time and the effort involved in coming up with innovative designs is left to others, to then simply take and imitate those designs without a doubt has one very clear consequence: it is a killer for true innovation. The proposition of investing design and development time to produce innovative products, to then have them copied is not very attractive – and of course it is always possible to market gear at a lower price if you are not having to cover the overheads involved with product design. Or by cutting costs with your materials or with labour costs…
Supporting the trend where research and development turns into rip off and duplicate is like cheating your future self of innovative designs.
And who wants that?