China's Top Mobile Company Complains About Counterfeits

from the delicious-irony dept

The rise of China has been predicted for a while now, and in the field of technology we are already seeing Chinese companies that are likely to have a global impact. One manifestation of that is the $25 billion US IPO of Alibaba — roughly, China’s equivalent of eBay, but much bigger — which was the largest in history. Another is Xiaomi, only founded in 2010, but already shipping 61 million smartphones a year. Writing in the Guardian, Charles Arthur called it “China’s Apple“, although Apple?s head of design, Jonathan Ive, is not too enamored of the comparison:

when asked about the company last October [Ive] was blunt: he “didn?t see [the similarities in design] as flattery” and called the superficial similarity in appearance of Xiaomi’s phones and software “theft” and “lazy”.

Xiami is not shy about borrowing ideas from Samsung either:

Certainly it has mimicked some of its names: one of the new phones unveiled on Wednesday, a 5.7in device called the ?Mi Note?, echoes the 5.7in Galaxy Note phablet range.

No surprise there, you might think, since China is (in)famous for its Shanzhai culture, even though that now goes well beyond producing cheap knock-offs of popular products. But given a tendency to draw on others for inspiration, the following news about Xiaomi, reported by Bloomberg, is nonetheless rather satisfying:

Sales of the company’s Mi Power Bank battery pack for smartphones hit 14.6 million units last year, less than half what the total should have been, Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun said at a press conference at the company’s headquarters in Beijing Thursday.

“What is the biggest problem? There are many fakes,” Lei said. “If there were no counterfeits, our sales would be double or triple. The product has been recognized by everyone.”

There is, of course, a delicious irony in that comment, but there’s something else. It shows — just as expected — that China is recapitulating the early history of the US. Once, America too was a pirate nation, happy to, er, borrow ideas from Europe without worrying too much about asking or paying for permission. Now, of course, the US is the biggest fan of people owning ideas, and forcing others to pay for the privilege of building on them. The comments by Xiaomi’s CEO show that China is following the same evolution. Put another way, it can only be a matter of time before Chinese companies regularly sue those in other parts of the world for “infringement” of their ideas, and the country replaces the US as the loudest cheerleader for longer copyright and patent terms, and harsher punishments for those who dare to ignore them.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: xiaomi

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Comments on “China's Top Mobile Company Complains About Counterfeits”

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Violynne (profile) says:

The most atrocious message these “copyright maximalists” make isn’t actually spoken, but it’s heard nonetheless:

“Our IP is important. Without it, others will steal our ideas and profit from our designs. Despite the fact our products sell well enough for our business to earn a profit, it’s not enough and we will do everything in our power to ensure these profits only go to us.

If there’s anything which remains true of “capitalism”, greed knows no bounds.

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What’s wrong with copying the answers on a test from someone who invested the time and effort to master the subject?

Well, there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, other than the fact that doing so means you won’t understand the subject, and the (job) market will reject you in favour of those who do understand the subject.

Maybe there’s a market for a cheaper product that’s not as good, but that’s not really competition for the more expensive product that actually works. If it turns out that the cheaper product does everything that its customers want it to, then that is a form of innovation (simplification) and the more expensive product isn’t actually better than the cheaper one.

Anonymous Coward says:

CHINA is a good lesson for all,
ie you can make a wide range of electronic goods,
and make new phones of all shapes ,sizes, some good,some bad,
without patents,
eg patents slow ,down innovation and put up more barriers to competition and bringing new products to market.
There,s alot of phones gadgets avaidable in china ,
that cannot be sold in the usa ,due to
patents be held by 100s of us companys on things like
wifi,touchscreen technology, software patents etc

anony says:


How long before America starts ignoring patents, especially those that affect them the most, remember that most devices are manufactured in the far east and they have a hell of a lot of power to put the US in it’s place and demand billions if not trillions from US businesses. Will the US now ignore patents altogether, i can see that happening eventually, but there is too much money being made by the 1% for them to throw it away yet. When China starts making more of an impact on profits then watch for the changes.

Pragmatic says:


I’m beginning to think the same thing.

1. Engage in IPR maximalism, ratcheting up the scope and the terms till All The Things have been locked down.

2. Encourage everybody and their dog to do the same.

3. Turn 180 degrees and run away laughing as everyone else struggles in the walled-off quagmire they’ve created.

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