Delicious irony: Chinese firm sues for patent infringement

Delicious irony: Chinese firm sues for patent infringement

Summary: A Chinese manufacturer of apparent knockoffs sues to protect its own intellectual property.

TOPICS: Patents, China

This post comes directly to you from the Department of Intellectual Property Irony.

Chinese manufacturer of photography tripods, Sirui, is waging a patent infringement war against another Chinese firm. Sirui claims the other company stole intellectual property related to its "elaborately researched and developed patent technology."

The Sirui website includes the following graphic, complete with the raised fist of underdogs who have been wronged and refuse to accept their fate without a fight:

Sirui intellectual property and patent fight

All of which ignores one key point: Sirui tripods appear to be knockoffs of a top tripod maker called Gitzo, which was founded in 1917. Both brands feature carbon fiber tubes and twist-locks, which are the mechanism for controlling how the legs extend. Several Chinese companies manufacture tripods that photographers consider Gitzo knockoffs, but it's extremely unusual for one of them to pursue its own intellectual property case.

This situation reflects China during a period of transition. Having developed excellent manufacturing capability, China is now the manufacturing outsourcer of choice for many major Western brands. At the same time, some Chinese firms want to become innovators who create intellectual property rather than merely reproduce other company's designs. Sirui's patents suggest broader ambitions, a sentiment that its website supports:

To promote benign competition and development of photographic equipment industry, it’s increasingly essential to standardize the industry action, reject illicit competition, initiate intellectual property construction and truly strengthen industry foundation construction and core competition.

In other words, Sirui faces the same intellectual property challenges that Western firms have complained about for years. As innovation, rather than duplication, becomes more deeply a part of Chinese business culture, the intellectual property situation will improve. For now, however, we find ironic situations that only make sense in the context of China's ongoing transition to innovator. China's intellectual property evolution will take many years, during which time we will surely see many odd and confusing situations -- such as this case.

Topics: Patents, China

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  • Learning from Apple

    Litigation is easier than innovation, and it seems to be working out for Apple. It was only a matter of time before other companies adopted this business model. The question becomes "how long until Apple gets a patent on suing people over patents that should never have been approved in the first place?".
    • I've read this article 3 times now

      And other than your mention I do not see Apple mentioned in the article anywhere. IOW your post has nothing to do with the article and is simply trolling.
    • Not about Apple

      As the author of this post, I can assure you that Apple is not the subject nor is it the point. The real issue is what's taking place in China and the potential impact on those of us in the West.
    • Grow Up

      Grow up and get off the Apple haters bandwagon. You're boring.
    • Easier?

      I think it is fair to say that copying is easier than innovation, which is why so many Asian companies do that.

      Litigation is not an alternative to competing. It's what you do when you have been ripped off.
  • For crying out loud...

    Can't the poor Apple Haters of the world read a single damned article about something totally unrelated without crying their usual BS about Apple?

    The fear of Apple in some people is astonishing. Like they are gonna come take their children or something.

    Grow up. It's the 2010's...
    • Your post already sounds dated

      I don't care which decade is which.

      Ethics is ethics.

      Value is value.

      What we choose to value and what ethics we choose to uphold are the real issues, and one cannot place a monopoly on the decade in which they are chosen to be upheld or discarded.

  • Prior art is Prior art

    Hopefully they will lose if all they are doing is copying a prior design. You can't patent prior art.
  • The US Has Been Pressuring China To Lift Its IP Game ...

    ... and when it obliges, suddenly USians aren’t so happy any more.

    What’s the matter, it’s all right when you do it to others, but not so all right when they do it to you?

    There’s just no pleasing some people..
    • Given the US loves to give handouts to companies that offshore there,

      it makes the game even more interesting...
  • Well, all companies steal and all patent troll

    Nothing ironic about any of this.

    Just par for the course.