What's Wrong With Competition?
from the can-someone-explain dept
The story involves a guy who started making plastic turkey wishbones for Thanksgiving/Christmas celebrations, so that families wouldn't have to fight over the actual turkey wishbone in the traditional "breaking" of the wishbone. Of course, maybe it was just my family, but I don't recall ever "fighting" over the wishbone. Anyway, the agency Young & Rubicam, which represents Sears, had asked for a sample for possible inclusion at Sears. A year later, Sears was selling a similar plastic wishbone, made by a different company, so this guy sued and won. From the article, the guy says they won on both patent and copyright infringement claims, but that's not true. The lawsuit was over copyright infringement claims only, and Sears made two good points that should have prevailed, in our opinion. First, you can't copyright something occurring in nature -- such as a wishbone. Second, the wishbones that Sears ordered were in different colors and sizes than the ones supplied by the original company.
And, in fact, that's exactly how competition should work. Sears pushed another manufacturer to innovate, designing different (and, in their opinion, better) wishbones. That's competition and that's how innovation works. In fact, the guy from the original company now admits that his company didn't do any updating of their design for years while fighting this lawsuit, and are just now starting to update the design. In other words, all copyright did was get these companies locked in a silly legal battle, rather than focusing on providing better solutions to customers. It's too bad this guy was afraid to compete in the marketplace.