Truck Maker Discovers Chinese Knockoff Company; Helps It Come Up With Its Own Design

from the well-there's-a-different-strategy dept

We've seen different companies respond in different and creative ways to companies making knockoffs in the past. One of my favorites was the South African clothing firm that created an entire (secret) knockoff line of clothes to "compete" with unauthorized knockoffs. However Sebastian Brannstrom points us to a really surprising story out of Sweden. While the linked article mostly complains about knockoffs and talks about the need for greater "patent" protections, at the end there's the fascinating story of truckmaker Scania (Google translation of the original Swedish) and how it responded to the discovery of a Chinese firm making knockoff trucks. Rather than freak out, it actually reached out to the firm, and helped them design different trucks.

The company admits that it knew that a lawsuit would be pointless, and figured it was worth a shot to try a different approach:
"We told them that we welcome competition but we think you should invest in a unique identity towards your customers"

Scania even gave them design tips.

"We gave them sketch-like ideas on the lines of the cab that you can do instead.

They later came back with a sketch of what they had thought about.

"We thought it was still too much like us. Then they did the job and came back again. It was a very friendly and constructive discussion. They respected what we said and made sure that they have not crossed the border again. Their next series will not be like Scania, "said Mr Harborn.
Now there's a strategy you don't see every day...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 11:54am

    Huh what do you know

    Man, who would have believed that being polite and reasonable to people gets you a positive response.

    Next thing we'll hear is that suing people out of the blue will make people angry and possibly counter-sue!

    What a strange world we live in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:00pm

    ...and the chinese company will sell the toolings for the replica Scandia trucks to another Chinese company that just happens to be owned by someone's brother, and they will start knocking them out.

    The polite answer only means they know they got you screwed, and are more than willing to take more if you give it to them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    It's your exact comment that represents the kind of people who would never do this.

    If it wasn't for people like that, who basically represent capitalism, we wouldn't have issues with IP in the first place. People need to get beyond "I'm being screwed" and look at "how can I actually benefit from this?". Those who don't have just as long a list as those that do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Re:

    [Citation, as always, Needed], TAM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Hiiragi Kagami (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Scania over-reacted in this, despite being helpful. Their designs aren't any different than other European trucks. Telling this company to change their designs would be similar to Peterbilt telling Kenworth to "knock it off. Here, make this." and that's not going to happen.

    Trucks are working toward a more aerodynamic design so it's not going to be surprising to see many pick up on the ideas, like curved fenders, air dams higher than the trailer, and a lower cab profile, just to name a few things I've seen done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Huh what do you know

    I don't believe it. In my experience the only way to get what I want is to use some combination of a claw hammer, fillet knife, branding iron, and a teddy bear. Anything else is just a bloody waste of time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Huh what do you know

    Based on that description I'd say the time is bloody regardless of whether or not it's wasted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    crade (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Apparently all they did was ask and offer help if they decided to change the design. They could have done this no matter what the reason was that they didn't like the chinese company's design. I don't see the issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    asymptote, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Slightly beside the point about Peterbilt telling Kenworth to "knock it off...", note that both companies, along with DAF, belong to PACCAR. Unless I misunderstand your point, perhaps a better example would be to say "Peterbilt telling Freightliner..."

    I like the story. Slightly off the point again, in the '50s and '60s we ridiculed Japanese companies for making inferior copies of our stuff. Then they surpassed us in many ways.

    Toward the point, does anybody else feel it would be mutually beneficial to find ways to work with the Chinese?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    athe, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Yet, if you know your trucks, you could look at a Peterbilt and a Kenworth, and know just by looking at it (no logos) which is which.

    Of course there are going to be similarities in the designs of these things, that's pretty much the way it is. Those extra ideas that you mention, those are likely the kind of things Scania is trying to encourage the Chinese company to try for themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re:

    What you aren't getting is that there is no benefit. Scania helps the Chinese company design a new truck, in theory putting Scania behind, and the Chinese company keeps the tooling for the knock off truck, and likely sells it on to another Chinese company that will produce it.

    So instead of a knock off Scania truck, you end up with a newly designed truck and a Scania knockoff.

    Seems like they are helping to make themselves even less relevant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    boney, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Reminds me of the old days

    Back in the 40's-70's when someone copied something you were doing, you just said "Hey, competition is good, I will make better stuff/things and whip their asses". Now it is "Hey, I will sue them out of existence because I have 40 lawyers and 500 billion dollars of tax payer money!".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What I am getting is that competition is better for everyone, unless you fail to realize that.

    That's the most basic of economics. If you're focused on the knockoff, then you're still missing the bigger picture.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Only because Scania have made lots of profit this year. If they were going under, you can bet they would have sued.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Insider, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    The Chinese company in question was not merely making a truck based off of the Scania image as your comment would have everyone believe. It was reverse engineering the truck and making nearly IDENTICAL copy. Aside from some regional features needed in the truck for the Chinese-Asian regions, the only real difference was the emblem on the front.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    crade (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    crade (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    So what?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's kind of amusing how every single one of your arguments relies on assertions that a certain series of events will happen in the future.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    ChronoFish (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re: Well, I suppose this can be considered good news.

    Isn't that the point.

    Scania is not protecting the concept of "The Truck". It's protecting its design. As a non-truck person with a 4-year old who loves trucks and truck books, even I can spot the unique design of Scania.

    A carbon-copy of the design (the looks and feel) is precisely what Scania needs to protect. Compare performance to other manufactures and I would venture to guess that that they are not blowing the competition away in HP or gas mileage or emmissions, or power plant options.

    If it's the design they want to protect, and the Chinese manufacture is willing to change without any monetary (or legal) incentive, why are you being so negative about the story?

    -CF

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    ChronoFish (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 2:43pm

    If I were a truck manufacture

    I would probably consider working with a "copy cat" manufacture, not to dissuade them from using a my design, but to use them as a form of market research. Have the start with my design... change up some of the detailing and see how it impacts sales/selection. If the options change fast enough the "copy" company never gets true traction. Meanwhile I can incorporate the proven design changes back into my main line.

    -CF

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You don't think it hasn't been done before?

    The Chinese market is rife with knock off cars and trucks, exact replicas in appearance to products from outside companies, including a really nice knock off of the bmw X5. It looks great, but drives only so-so (it is a physical replica, not a mechanical one).

    When pressured, these companies usually fold up, but the products live on with other companies, under other names.

    Do you honestly think a country full of 3 wheeled carts is going to suddenly throw away the tooling for a perfectly functional truck just because someone asked them nicely?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    teka (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    throw away the tooling

    You make it sound like making minor changes in the shape of next-year's truck involved tearing down the factory or replacing all the equipment. Car and truck plants around the world manage to do a changeover, many of them yearly, without somehow selling off "the tooling" to a knockoff company.


    So instead of a raging legal fight across borders and continents, with millions in lawyer fees across years, we have a few hours overall of work by a salaried manager (Mr Harborn) and one or two sketch artists, also probably salaried or doing these pieces at no great cost in time or money. This is a success story for everyone but lawyers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Ryan Diederich, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 5:29pm

    Hey

    No reason to hate on capitalism, its the reason you can read this blog and the reason you arent starving right now. Its also how the world works.


    Anyways, capitalism and being nice arent mutually exclusive, you can do both. The truck maker Scania benefitted in many ways by doing this.

    For one, they made their name known not for their litigation powers, but by the quality of their managment and owners. If I was looking into buying some trucks, I would consider them above others, for no other reason than they did this. It sets them apart, and gives me a reason that i would want to buy from them rather than another company, which may feel differently about a similar situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 6:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There is a good point, with massive legal cost I'm wondering if it is not cheaper to pay your own design team to create different products and hand over to competitors, if the goal is to make others not copy you, then you can just get all those refused designs and hand over to others.

    Now that would scare the bejesus out of American manufacturer's, as their goal is to extinguish competitors not help them in any way, and that is why other countries try harder to terminate them and feel no remorse in doing so they don't need them, they are predators and must die, on the other hand Scania may be building something that could help them, since those other manufacturer's now know that they can count on them for partnerships.

    The point being American companies bring nothing to the table and will be treated us such, because they are so annoying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, Feb 24th, 2011 @ 4:53am

    Trouble with "helping"...

    ... the troubling aspect I have with this article is when Scandia will be hit with a lawsuit because the P.R. Chinese's product was involved in some sort of accident. Bad enough that OEMs have had to deal with fingers pointed at them when the product was produced by a counterfeiter...

    http://forum.autoworld.com.my/index.php?showtopic=25444&mode=threaded

    ... worse yet if said counterfeiter can claim it was "helped" by the original OEM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 24th, 2011 @ 5:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    define utopia ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Feb 24th, 2011 @ 5:58am

    Re: Trouble with "helping"...

    My head rattled for a second...

    Framework
    vs
    Actual builder.

    *pop*...There that's clearer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), Feb 24th, 2011 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Trouble with "helping"...

    Comes down to this scenario: Truck driving down road, driver attempts to hit the breaks before hitting some crossing the street, truck hits person. Person sues driver, company, and truck maker. In this case, the shangzhai truck maker can attempt to include Scandia in the lawsuit because "they helped design the truck".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Martin, Feb 24th, 2011 @ 8:31pm

    It really doesn't matter what each company did.

    As long as they keep lawyers out of it.
    It is the greedy lawyer, who always screwing up things by threatening, suing, etc..

    Do you see? For a fraction of a lawsuit cost, new truck design was born. And that is what I like about this story very much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), Feb 25th, 2011 @ 4:47am

    Re: It really doesn't matter what each company did.

    Not old enough to remember the Ford Pinto, are you? Look up that infamous memo, then come back and attempt to repeat what you just said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    used semi-trucks, Mar 27th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

    used semi-trucks

    Nowadays while investing in truck, one is assigned many choices. There are many used trucks available for sale which can leave a particular questioning about whether to find a new truck maybe a used one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This