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Sunday, 19 August 2007

From iPhone to MiniOne

The IPKat's friend Martin Cohen has written in with the following comment:

"I have just read a fascinating article from regarding the current state of counterfeiting industry in China. The article centres on the release of the "MiniOne" phone, which is a clone of the Apple iPhone, but in fact dares to include a fuller (and arguably more useful) features list than the original it imitates. The article discusses how extensive the issue in China is, with factories working 'ghost shifts' (outside offical hours) to produce similar or identical versions of western products. In some cases whole factories for the production of fakes have been built - using the same blueprints as the factories creating the official versions. Product patent filings are often used as manufacturing guides. The market for these products is an extremely healthy one, with cases of counterfeit products proving more popular than the originals among Chinese consumers.

The article notes that China's development is emulating that of Japan and Korea before it, and that counterfeiters are now at a stage where they are looking to produce products superior to the Western models. The question is whether, while the actions of these counterfeiters are undoubtedly illegal, they represent merely a stage in the economic cycle which the Chinese manufacturing industry will use as a springboard to producing products that compete in their own right on a global stage with their western counterparts.

Much has been said already about China's IP policy and how many are pressuring the Chinese to bring stricter enforcement to this area (a message which may, in part, already have been headed). What I think is interesting is that an industry that can produce superior consumer goods, often bringing them to the market at lighting speeds (frequently undercutting releases of official manufacturers when bringing their products to China), clearly displays the talent and drive to make its own products and reap genuine legitimate commercial rewards. If these companies put the same level of industriousness into their own designs, they may be able to attain perhaps the highest level - to have western consumers, in western countries choosing their products over those of local competitors. Can a culture of systematic IP abuse stimulate a country's own design and manufacturing sectors to higher levels of excellence? If so, is this abuse in any way legitimated? This is (perhaps) a challenging question to answer.

The full text of the article can be found here
The IPKat wonders what his readers think. Your comments are welcome.


testing2007 said...

Which of Apple's IP have they been copying?

If it's just the shape of the tihng, that's a trivial matter: Apple didn't invent metal and plastic boxes.

If it's the user interface, is that intellectual property anyway? If so should it be? Put it another way, would you like to live in a world where every car had to have a different arrangement of pedals?

If it's the actual software that goes in the iPhone, that's something quite serious and amounts to substancial copying.

Overall I'm not surprised that Chinese (or other) companies can put out improved versions of Apple products, since Apple's products are not really all that wonderful once you remove the Jobs reality-distortion field.

Sparkie said...

I'm not sure that the iphone is really that good an example of chinese counterfeiting skill. It seems to me that my Orange SPV M500 is physically and functionally very similar to the iphone despite being over two years old. As usual, apple's contribution is more a matter of marketing and packaging.

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