Someone stole my bike - Design Plagiarism

Postby slippyfish » June 14th, 2007, 7:06 pm

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Last edited by slippyfish on June 22nd, 2007, 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Postby Mr-914 » June 14th, 2007, 9:23 pm

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It's good that you aren't working with them anymore. If you get burned and you keep making the same mistake, namely handing your designs to people who you know are shopping the info around to anybody that walks in the door, you have a problem. I know that it's hard to make anything outside China these days. It's just so easy! However, companies that are investing heavily in the design and engineering just can't afford stuff being knocked off BEFORE they launch the product.

Man...I feel for you!

As for the spainish designers. Who knows if they even have any. Maybe the managers just walk around the shop in China and say, "make that for us". That's life man!

Postby jimr » June 15th, 2007, 7:02 am


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Slippyfish, You have a right to be furious- Kestrel has a right to sue- did they apply for patent/ trade dress protection?

Postby dawolfman666 » June 15th, 2007, 7:16 am

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its harsh but then for them to take your idea and tweak it is a great compliment of your work. Its hard to except, but unless kestrel want to get in to litigation with them, its not worth wasting your energy over. Was either design ever registered/protected?

I actually think on the first example they improve the look of the detailing. There is an inherent influence of products we take in around us, and if a company does something unique you can bet there is queue of company's who are happy to take that idea and tweak it to make it their own......just look at some of the footwear posts.

I had a similar instance of a component we had custom made to my design was then used in a competitors machine by the supplier....sigh

Postby dawolfman666 » June 15th, 2007, 7:19 am

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this building upon others influence can be seen as a design evolution in comparison to conceptual breakthroughs.

Postby aubz » June 15th, 2007, 8:24 am


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If you have a patent/written agreement then you shouldn't have a problem with sueing them. I hope you did that if you spend 100k for the project.

Postby one-word-plastics » June 15th, 2007, 8:31 am

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I've worked with Chinese factories for over twenty years and here are some comments about this situation:

- In general, the security is pretty loose when it comes to allowing competitors to view each others development work.

- Often a factory will actually show a new account the work of an existing customer in an attempt to prove legitimacy. The factory tour is a very powerful selling tool. A good Chinese vendor will partition an area of the factory for new development and not allow tours in that area. A bad factory will show you EVERYTHING!

- I've seen factories work to develop a technology for one customer, then start shopping it around to everyone - thinking that they own it. You need to establish who owns the concept/technology up front to prevent this. It's not an unspoken rule in China that your designs are your designs.

Of course these are generalizations and only my observations. They do not apply to every factory in China.

Know your partners before showing them new designs & technologies!!
"Life is pretty simple: you do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
—Leonardo da Vinci

Postby aubz » June 15th, 2007, 8:59 am


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"Know your partners before showing them new designs & technologies!!"

You have to have a written agreement; to "KNOW" them is not good enough!!!

Postby cg » June 15th, 2007, 11:39 am

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As a proud Obea Orca owner, I can say that I'm really disturbed by this. I paid good money for good design. If that design is a forgery, then I paid too much.

This is why we do Patents and why we keep designs under-wraps until production. It seems like the seatpost collet would be protectable with both a Design and a Utility patent. Did Kestrel get these?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But if consumers are confused about who should get the credit, and profits are affected, then it's time to lawyer-up!

unprotected

Postby slippyfish » June 15th, 2007, 12:32 pm

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There was no intellectual property protection on either of the bikes - neither design nor utility. The shape of the bikes could have had a design patent, and the seat binder could have had a utility patent.

I agree with dawolfman's assertion - it's not worth wasting energy over. But it is worth posting here - not as a warning to others but to set the record straight on who made what. I would hope that those Orca designers used Core77 too so we could get into a real nice big flamewar.

There are no plans I know of to sue anyone. No IP dollars were spent so there's not much of a case. Margins in the bike industry are thin too, so it would be a waste of money probably, and a "cease and desist" wouldn't really benefit anyone.

I think Kestrel are still good clients - their factories just didn't respect their privacy in the first example, and in the second, the Orca designers couldn't think up something original.

It would be flattering to think that some of these features become commonplace on TT bikes going forward. Theres more than one way to skin a cat though, and I don't imagine the other bike companies adopting these design elements.

CG I'm sure your Orca rides really well, and I don't think it's a bad-looking bike (as long as I don't consider the RT700). The factory that makes the bikes does good work, manufacturing-wise.

I guess in the end, what means the most to me is that the other designers I converse with know how this situation went down. I didn't put any of my own $ into the bikes - I got my salary for the work I did, and got an IDEA award out of it. Compensation enough. But my pride in the work doesn't allow me to forgive another designer's claim of innovation and ownership of something they didn't create.

Postby Supernaut » June 15th, 2007, 2:10 pm


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Being an ex footwear designer I know how you feel. Sometimes it is attributed to unsavory and malignant forces, other times it could be a matter of universal consciousness, trends, and common knowledge that led to a specific and same result. But most often its not due to the designer's lack of originality, but the lack of orginiality of the market that push for the similiar result.

I would be interested to know whow much managers such as Tony Karklins, Managing Director of Orbea-USA, had a say in what it was to look like.
Occam's Razor makes the cutting clean

Postby cheerygirl » June 18th, 2007, 1:58 am


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i know this frustration well....
anyway anyone has some thoughts about how to protect your work other than patents ? i personally put my work 'in pieces' and not whole.
But that itself could also give rise to copying though more inconvenient.

Postby pier » June 18th, 2007, 9:22 am


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Hi slippyfish. It's a very interesting example you have posted, thanks for showing us this and including background information. This has happened to me too.

Looking at both Kestrel and Orbea designs, in legalese "in situ", they appear to be more coincidence than copy. They are the same configuration product (trapezoidal diamond composite frame time trial bicycle), it is logical that design - engineering - style - manufacturing solutions have similar embodiments. There appear to be minute but significant differences in their design - engineering - style - manufacturing embodiments that probably can be amplified by explanation. It is typical in highly competitive niche product categories where individual offerings are differentiated by minutia, differences minimal to the general public, that similarities occur in new product development.

Also, just topically, designs that have been shared and copied via Chinese factories usually have been more faithful copies.

It is true that factory tours can lead to design copy; I've done it but at a detail level (really cool gasket design attachment molding detail...) and seen similar example where someone copied a small design detail from me, both via same plastics molding plant. One time, some one called me asking permission to copy a design detail they had seen at our plastics molder!

I have seen new technology startup with an obvious copy, but badly done, of one of my designs. President and I discussed it, but his assertion was that the copy product could be shown, marginally, to not be a competitor, and the cost and time to pursue IP litigation wasn't worth it. I have seen other designs identical to some of my rejected design sketches: evidence that given a set of problems, someone may come up with similar design solutions.

Incidentally, Kestrel used to use a local company to make their molds. They were appropriately secretive within the factory, concealing certain projects (i.e. Lamborghini, coffee creamers) from wandering eyes.

Designs left behind with overseas fabricators.

Postby lito » June 18th, 2007, 1:24 pm


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It's easy to engage in conspiracy theories about what happens to design documents that are left with overseas companies. While others on this post may disagree, I see some fairly clear indications that one bike frame design was influenced by the other.
It's happens with die-cast designs too. Here's a court case on Lionel trains that resulted from design work being carried about shops in the Far East.

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/cir ... 51095p.pdf

Postby Kung Fu Jesus » June 18th, 2007, 3:25 pm


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tough luck. i'm sorry this happened to you. it's not uncommon when you deal with china. in furniture this stuff happens all the time. sometimes when my company goes outside it's own chinese factories, we use the DOD or nasa approach and split up components to different places so they can't tell what the hell they're making.

i suspect the 1 year push on the prototype left your chinese partner very agitated. this stuff happens so much, it's not even funny anymore. even with chinese patents in place, it's no protection. it's difficult to control the information of product development over there unless you have people in place who can watch_over_everything. even then, there is still a chance of a major infringement.

live and learn. move on.
"Furniture that is too obviously designed is very interesting, but too often belongs only in museums." - MBJ

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