Copying Products Overseas – Is it so bad?

In business, china business by Michael Michelini3 Comments

Yes. this can be a sensitive topic. But hey, thats why I am picking it as a topic in the first place! And that is – how an original idea in one country may be copied overseas without any financial compensation or even a “thank you” to the founder. I, being born and raised in the USA, always was brought up with the impression ideas are stolen and you have to watch carefully who you show it to, and that overseas, yes, it will quickly get stolen from you and you probably cannot do anything about it. copyright photocopy international

Being here in China now about 1 and a half years, I have grown perspective on this topic. Put yourself in this situation:

See a product / service you like that is sold overseas. It is not being offered in your country. You don’t speak the language where it is currently being made. You see opportunity of this product / service selling in your home country. Also, the original concept is not exactly how you think it would be best in your home country – the people here would want it differently.


OK, so you want to do the right thing. You, what? Call a USA phone number, but you cannot speak English that well, and it is pretty expensive to call internationally. Do you consult with a company in your city? Well, they probably would say just do it, they would not say bother contacting this international company (and this is the main problem, no standard international policy on IP!).

but say you do speak good English, and you stay up late one night and make a phone call. OK – a customer service rep picks up the call – “who are you? hmmm, who to transfer you too”. etc etc, I mean, how do you get to the right person?

And then, say you get to the executive team who owns this great product / service in USA. If they even take you seriously, what are they going to say

  • “NO”.
  • “lets have our lawyers talk to your lawyers”
  • Can you send an email (and probably not reply)
  • Pay me $X,000usd upfront fee

    I mean, really, this is what I would expect to happen. As I have attended some of these trade shows and talked to some companies, yes, they have similar copy products that may have been invented in USA…..BUT HOW IS IT supposed to be done properly?

  • The US company doesn’t (unless its a major corporation) have the resources to sell and market in a foreign country.
  • The US company doesn’t understand the culture, how to tweak and revise the product / service for this group of people.
  • the US company won’t know how to translate the product, the materials.
  • the US company MAY HAVE NO INTEREST in selling in that particular market.

    I have an example – FACEBOOK. I live in China, and I look for a NETWORK in my city. IT ONLY SUPPORTS CITIES FOR NORTH AMERICA (US and CANADA) and UK. Wake up facebook how much effort is it to add international cities? I mean, this is just begging for people in China to copy the business model and add the damn cities!!!!!!!!!!!! It is, in a way, disrespectful to the international community – and this is one example out of many like this that may put in perspective why products / services that may be orginally inventeed in USA are copied and tailored for a overseas market.
    facebook networks only us / canada / uk

    Whether copying a product overseas without financial benefit to the original inventor is right / wrong, moral / immoral, the fact of the matter is GET IT IN THE HANDS of that international market, or expect it to be copied. Because hey, people are people, and they want products in their home country, on their store shelves too. And they want it catered for their culture.

    So, maybe this is creating opportunity for consulting companies to assist small business more rapidly make their new product / service more readily available internationally, it is something that needs to be address. With the internet passing information worldwide in seconds, we need to be quicker on our toes as entrepreneurs and business people.

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    1. Mike,
      Thanks for your rendition on whether to copy commercial ideas or not.
      Unfortunately, some companies are slowly becoming internationally sophisticated and are finding out the hard way – that they need to protect and launch their product in the global marketplace. But their oversight should not be a “free pass” for others to “pass off” or infringe their rights. Perhaps a good example is domain name theft or “cybersquatting”. Cybercriminals search for an upcoming successful product name or start-up name and quickly register it in another country thereby “stealing ” and then demanding the victim to pay for their name – what would be called extortion in the civil law world. It is hard to justify these actions in a world of law and order. But then, maybe that’s the crux of the issue – there are no rules in the land absent law & order.

      1. Author

        hi there,

        I am not saying its OK to copy products overseas…..what I am saying is that we need to find some sort of solution to this, and a way for products and services be represented globally – more quickly and freely. The high fees of lawyers, and the costs of launching internationally is out of touch for startups….if we can find a way to have foreign companies more quickly represent that product or service fairly in that home country, and justly pay the orginal inventor, that would be an amazing platform or service..

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