Mercedes Asks EU to Knock Off Knock-Off

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

Mercedes headed for legal action? No news there. But this time it's against the Chinese for a fraudulent design clone. The Chinese-manufactured "Shuanghuan Noble" is set to debut at Frankfurt and go on sale in the EU shortly thereafter for about €7,000. Not bad, since a real SMART will run nearly €10,000. That might be pocket change to an S-Class shopper, but it's a reduction in price by 30%. Knock-off Burberry caps? Perhaps. Knock-off microcar? I think the safety kit is there for a reason… I'll stick with a nearly new Smart, thanks. This particular legal action is tremendous, because Mercedes is going to win (you think the EU Courts are going to let the Chinese push around one of the good old boys?) and it's going to show that just because the Chinese have inconsistent and weak copyright infringement, the Europeans won't tolerate such intellectual theft. I hope.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Aug 23, 2007

    If the mid-size Chinese sedans did terribly in crash tests, I'd love/hate to see how this tin can fares in the same test. I wonder if Shuanghuan really expects to sell a blatant knock off in Europe/America and not face a losing battle. In both the Five Hundred and the HHR cases not only do the cars look a lot alike, but they were done by the same designer which company B hired away from company A. jthorner: Styling influences are just that: influences. Pathetic for sure, but this is waaay more blatant and extreme than what you are referring to.

  • Gzuckier Gzuckier on Aug 23, 2007

    This is China, in a nutshell. A friend who has business interests over there says they will walk up to you at trade shows and proudly show you how they made an exact copy of your product and are selling it cheaper.

  • Redbarchetta Redbarchetta on Aug 23, 2007
    This is China, in a nutshell. A friend who has business interests over there says they will walk up to you at trade shows and proudly show you how they made an exact copy of your product and are selling it cheaper. This is exactly why that entire country needs to be taught a BIG lesson and it should start with this lawsuit. The sooner the better, it's not going to be easy to change 100 years of stealing from the rest of the world.
  • Jthorner Jthorner on Aug 23, 2007

    In the early portion of America’s industrial age nearly all of the machines were copies of English originals. Japan’s first cameras were near exact copies of Leica, Zeiss and other European models. In fact, the name Nikon was chosen for it’s similarity to the German Zeiss company’s camera brand Ikon. In a way China’s actions bring to the forefront a very old debate over how much intellectual property protection benefits a society. The original US copyright law “secured an author the exclusive right to publish and vend “maps, charts and books” for a term of 14 years, with the right of renewal for one additional 14 year term if the author was still alive.” (see Wikipedia) Corporate lobbying since that time has extended the protection out to software, media recordings and the physical design of products. In the US today that protection “persists for 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever is shortest.” The intent was to give individuals the economic incentive to create original works through a limited period of exclusive benefit and then to make that benefit readily available to anyone. Now we have a system which is vastly skewed towards the benefit of the few, generally heartless corporations with no practical time period in which that benefit is readily available to all. Most Americans seem to think that this is the natural order of things, but the truth is that it is just a made up set of rules like those for baseball. China is playing by a different set of rules. One must remember that China doesn’t even really believe in the idea of personal physical property very strongly, let alone personal/corporate ownership of ideas. It really takes a sophisticated mind-warp to see ideas as something a person or company can “own”. Rapid technological and industrial development is aided by weak intellectual property laws and enforcement. This has been demonstrated time and time again. The more developed nations push to change this process and the less developed nations see that push as an imperialist attempt to slow their development rate, which is pretty much what it is. Certainly what China is doing today is no worse than the conquest of the native populations by European man which led to the current United States.