Some years ago, I was at a private dinner party. I was sitting next to a woman with a beautiful finger ring. I recognized the design and complimented her taste. I also recognized the design as it was the same designer who designed my wife Nina's and mine wedding rings - and though our rings are simple, they came at a steep price. After a few glasses of wine, the woman told me her ring wasn't original. She told me how she took photos from catalogs and sent the designs to Turkey so a local goldsmith could copy the ring. I was surprised because this was not because she couldn't pay the full price but because she was picky and satisfied with a copy. She asked me what I thought, and my instant answer was - it must be pretty annoying knowing it isn't an original, and even more annoying, I know!
From a broader perspective, it's illegal and morally wrong, as the Danish designer holds the rights to the design. Therefore the design can't be copied without consent from the designer, which wasn't given in the above case.
Traveling in some countries, like Turkey, Tunisia, China, and other tourist countries, you are often exposed to offers that are almost too good to be true, and they aren't. But still, you see people buying fake 'luxury' bags, 'luxury' watches, clothing, perfumes, and pretty much everything out of everyday people's reach in the high streets. As these copycats continue to scam tourists and other easy targets, one must assume enough people buy fake products!
To take a design or product developed by someone else and then start producing and selling it takes some nerve, and therefore organized crime is said to be involved in the production of many of the faked brands.
Talking about copying products, most agree that it's not ok - but when it comes to less obvious things, it becomes more challenging to draw the lines between right and wrong. Is it, for example, possible to protect a business model?
When Xerox invented its copiers, the business model was that you could only rent the machine, and a highly lucrative click model was introduced and made Xerox HUGE. Patents protected Xerox from other manufacturers challenging both the product and the model - and Xerox could build a business around a protected ecosystem. When the technology was challenged, and competitors started delivering competing products, the business model had to change, as consumers or businesses preferred other models. Competition changed the market, and the market got options and, therefore, better products.
Competition and a free market have created unforeseen wealth in the western world since the second world war, and every time we see monopolies, cartels, or unfair competition in the market, it has never been good for the consumers in the short term, and even for the companies on a longer term. Authorities monitor monopolizations and free market development, and we know if large corporates want to merge or be acquired, they often await authorities' approval.
But what about companies that bluntly copy products and services - how are they seen? Lego, Apple, Nike, and other huge brands have people that do nothing but monitor the market to strike hard on copycats. The people that copy any well-established brand do so to short-cut a financial gain. They want to profit from other brands' popularity, and worse, sometimes, they even try to position themselves so well that consumers are confused by the copy.
These companies often have short lives, but you see companies with successful copies; an example is Xiaomi. The company has copied almost everything Apple does but on an Android platform. From Apple stores to Apple products, to Apple packaging, to everything - Apple apparently can't do anything. Countries like China have very vague legislation regarding protecting intellectual rights, which might be one reason.
Legislation and how the legal systems protect intellectual rights are essential for products, leading me back to businesses and business models.
When we started INKISH, we were (I believe) the only media that believed in longer formats and higher production quality. That competition leads to better quality from our competitors is excellent and an advantage for consumers that now have even more great choices. When you see that business models are copied bluntly - not specifically to INKISH, but generally speaking, I can't help thinking about the copycats described above.
Competition is good - period! Competition leads to better products and services and should fuel management in companies to rethink their products, services, branding, business models, etc., to respond to competition and enable better sales.
When Landa announced nanography, it kickstarted the development of better inkjet devices, which today give customers a choice. When we look at the decreasing market for some segments in our industry, i.e., Commercial print, you can ask yourself whether it's because we as an industry haven't developed our products and services in a great response to the alternatives? I believe that we have lost an opportunity because of this. Commercial print is, by far, better, cheaper, and faster than in 2008/2009 when the Internet became mainstream. So, when we see a decreasing revenue in Commercial print, you can argue that it's because of a lack of market development. Yes, Yellow Pages, newspapers, and other typical Commercial print applications have disappeared, but books are a great example of a thriving market.
A piece of advice. If you are in a declining market, the solution is not to copy other people's business models or products. The solution, and only GREAT solution, is to review the market, understand the competition, and develop new products, services, and business models that support your mission.
And have fun on the journey. One of the things I have enjoyed the most in my role with INKISH is seeing how our very original concept is getting more and more attention in the market. Thank you for that!
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