Getting copied? Join the club

Posted on November 21, 2013


What can’t be ripped off? Not much, it seems.

If you’ve ever had your ideas stolen then you’ll know how frustrating it is. Sometimes there is something you can do about it. Often there isn’t.

A tweet I saw recently from @WhatTheBit (Stefan Constantine), in relation to a dispute between Nokia and the Indian authorities, read: “wait, you can seize an entire factory?!”


Who’s pirated your work…?

This reminded me of some conversations a few years back. It wasn’t long before the Beijing Olympics and I was interviewing the co-CEO of SAP. We were talking about both software piracy and how the Olympics might make Chinese authorities more respectful of intellectual property. (Fake ‘Beijing 2008’ T-shirts, anyone?)

SAP’s boss mentioned it was quite hard to duplicate what his company does. Sure, it’s just code on CDs (back then) or for download. But you need all the professional services, the ongoing updates and all the expertise that comes with such all-encompassing software.

Then someone mentioned having seen a perfectly copied BMW X5 SUV in China – at least “perfectly” on the surface. Who knows what engine it contained. Same with various smart-phones and gadgets.

Then a third person had the killer story. Some executives from the telecoms equipment arm of Japanese manufacturer NEC were visiting southern China when their hosts mentioned already visiting an NEC factory in a certain province. The Japanese execs looked puzzled. So their host explained the large, sophisticated facility – right down to the ‘NEC’ sign over the front entrance.

It turned out NEC had never been in that part of the world.

So yes, it isn’t only possible to seize an entire factory. It’s also possible to copy one (as certain other companies have found out).

And next time you hear someone complain about having their work ripped off, think about how easy it is. It’s not right and it might not be your work we’re talking about but it happens all the time and at a scale we rarely consider.

* photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – via photopin cc

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

Posted in: Media, Work