Someone stole my bike - Design Plagiarism

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!

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

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

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

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.

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!!

“Know your partners before showing them new designs & technologies!!”

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

had to get that on the frontpage:Yo! C77 Board alert : Bicycle Thief - Core77

[[ thanks Ben ]]

Have you ever been at a factory reviewing blueprints for a project, flipped it over only to realize it was printed on the back of one of your competitors blueprints?.. yeah. Who said they are not big on recycling yet in China?

Thanks for all the constructive feedback.

Live and learn, move on, definitely.

Yo, thanks also for the upfront thread listing on the homepage.

The Ordu design is a little less derivative, but still ‘borrows’ from the Airfoil. For that bike, they didn’t even have to look at the Chinese factory - you can find Airfoils at any good triathlon-intensive bike shop.

I agree with some of the comments on “universal consciousness”, but I think a good designer can 1) research all the competition and 2) create their own design DNA for a client that does not borrow signature elements from the competition e.g. the Trek and Cervelo examples. Its hard to mistake their silhouettes for that of another bike.

This is an interesting thread about a subject that many designers of consumer products are very familiar with. I am torn between being angry and flattered when something like this happens, but it is increasingly becoming commonplace. Anyway, I linked to the thread from my bike design blog. Check it out here if you are interested:

My mechanical engineer partner and I have been discussing this topic for a few days. He is a triathalete and general gear head. He has managed to sway me to the believe that there isn’t anything profound about the designs shown that can prove that one bike design was copied from another.

The seat clamp is probably the most iconic aspect of both designs. Being that they are both carbon fiber (they are both carbon fiber, right?) it is a pretty logical way the seat clamp has to be attached to the carbon frame.

I have to say that I am not convinced this is something that is worth bitching about. You have made some pretty damning alligations against Obea in this post. Even actual Obea Designers have been called out. It has been elevated to front page on the Core77 site. And all of it based on circumstantial evidence. I would be more pissed off as an Obea Designer than I would had I been the designer of the Kestral bike.

I will buy that there MAY have been an INFLUENCE of the Obea design based on your Kestral Designs. But to call out the Obea Team for plagerism is a bit much.

They are made from different materials…but wouldn’t you think that of the two designs below one could have been copied from the other? Both being of “folded over” construction, and all?

I don’t know. This feels a bit like a tempest in a teacup.

I think IP_wirelessly is talking some sense here, i agree with you.

This is turning a bit childish. Orbea is a well respected company with a long history (started in 1840), I know that doesn’t prove anything, but I mean we are not talking about some cheap knockoff new company.

No doubt the bikes look very similar, but I would tend to think of coincidence, as it would be difficult to belive that such a company would go around copying other designs from a single company. It would be cool if someone from Orbea would comment on this, so we can hear their side of the story.