Copy-Cat Clones

May 20, 2015

 

I have been watching the various copy-cat issues with some interest, as I am also selling KX3 accessories.  As I stated on this site and at other times I am a fan of Scott – AK6Q’s SideKX panels and cover.  I own and have voiced my appreciation for Rose’s designs and finished cases here as well.  My opinion on copy-cat clones: it is unethical to merely copycat what someone else spent a LOT of time and money researching, perfecting, and bringing to market.  Ethically it is the equivalent of looking at someone else’s paper while taking a test.

The copy-catter didn’t:

1) Put their own valuable time into analyzing the root problem.

2) Spend time and money trying to design the solution.

3) Spend more time and money making revisions and modifications until they were perfected.

4) Incur financing costs and take risks to purchase materials on speculation (as the creator did since the market was new and unproven for them).

5) Spend money advertising and developing the market.

This gives the copy-catter a huge financial advantage over the original.  This unfair advantage is what patents were supposed to protect the original inventor from.  To this, some may say: “then if you want protection, get a patent.”  To that I would say patents are not applicable to the KX3 accessory market given how small the total market is for the devices, often in the low hundred units.  If Scott, Rose or anyone else were to embed the cost of patenting (often >$10,000) and defending the KX3 accessories into the price, not one of us would buy them because the cost would be too high.  Even then, foreign clones could be offered ignoring the US patent.

But despite the law not protecting the creator nor punishing the copy-catter in this situation, (and this is my main point): copy-catting is still wrong.  The lack of immediate consequence does not make an act ethical or right.  Laws are supposed to provide guidance AFTER common-sense intercourse between individuals has broken down, not make a framework defining how one should act.  People who need to consult a law book to determine how to act and what is ethical never heard the Golden Rule: don’t do unto others what you would not want done to you.  It is that simple.

The issue then comes down to personal ethics.  It is much harder to come up with an enhancement, and better version or a new concept than it is to hide in the bushes then clone a thing after someone else does the hard creative part, spends the development money and takes the risk.  Supporting a copy-catter by purchasing their products takes money out of the hand of, and disincentivizes those who would bring you these new and improved things, and rewards the uncreative and unethical.

In the case of the copy-cat KX3 side panels they are also inferior, made of softer alloy and with less precision.  Also, those who buy those copy-cat side panels will find they will not work with the SideKX cover which is one of the best accessories made for the KX3.  Also, the heatsink included with those side panels does not have the ability of reinforcing the SideKX cover.

If one is still OK with buying a copy-cat clone after considering all of this, they at least need to be honest with themselves with the type of people and society they are encouraging, this is how capitalism works; we speak most strongly about the kind of world we want with our money.  I strongly believe capitalism only benefits society in general when ethics are integrated into all aspects of doing business.

If you want to respond, please keep it civil.

Howard Hoyt – WA4PSC

www.proaudioeng.com

4 thoughts on “Copy-Cat Clones

  1. John

    I thought Scott applied for a Design Patent for the sideplates. Those are much cheaper and easier to obtain than full blown utility patents and are quite appropriate for small market products. If you don’t, you’ve essentially given away your design to the world. The cost to prosecute any patent is, however, very expensive. If nothing else, a good design patent immortalizes who thought up the idea first.

    Reply
  2. admin Post author

    Hi John!
    I don’t know what the status of Scott’s patent is. As someone who has had to pay to defend a patent, I am pretty much over the idea of patenting for small businesses. Unless the infringement is blatant, it becomes all about who has the better lawyer. Plus, when you initiate a patent you notify all the patent trolls of your invention and they can get their start copying it before you even come to market. That applies to a design patent as well. Thanks to internet commerce, the world can sell to your customers despite patent protection. All of this just means you have to hit the market running as fast as you can while you design the next item.
    Just my $0.02 worth…

    Reply
    1. John

      ” As someone who has had to pay to defend a patent, I am pretty much over the idea of patenting for small businesses. Unless the infringement is blatant, it becomes all about who has the better lawyer. ”

      I don’t argue with that. Patents for small business are for documentation and historical purposes only IMHO. There are exceptions though.

      “Plus, when you initiate a patent you notify all the patent trolls of your invention and they can get their start copying it before you even come to market. ”

      I don’t agree with that. One of my current patent applications remained “under the hood” so to speak for the default 18 months. We didn’t market the invention during this time, but, of course, if you do, then you do let the secret out. If you choose, you can develop your market totally in secret while you wait for the patent to issue or get published after 18 months – as we all know, the time it takes to get a patent is usually much longer than the 18 months so that is the length.

      I also don’t agree with that fellow on the KX3 forum. You should have and could have obtained a patent (design at least) for your version of the KX3 heatsink. As far as I can tell, it remains the best performance per gram of the available choices. As you read in my review, I crow about your non-snag rounded edges and acknowledge the notch for the Lexan cover. Those features were novel. I understand your reasons though so I hope accolades are sufficient praise.

      John

      Reply
  3. admin Post author

    Hi John!

    I appreciate the feedback, and you are right; the period between filing and grant can be long and a decent head-start.

    Cheers & 73,
    Howie – WA4PSC

    Reply

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