At last count there are seven companies that have plagiarized our Dropcam design. The saying goes that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but when ones design work is blatantly ripped off it doesn’t feel like flattery, it just feels wrong.
Designers on all levels pour their hearts into creating original solutions. One would expect intellectual property and patent laws to protect this originality but that is often not the case, especially in the international marketplace which is much harder to police. Plagiarism is bad for our design industry. It belittles the intense personal and collaborative efforts required to conceive and develop innovative products, and it hastens obsolescence as more look-alike products flood the marketplace.
Dropcam isn’t alone. Many companies like Apple and BMW have been dealing with plagiarism for decades, and the fashion world in particular is most commonly violated. Now we see cool new products like Dropcam, Beats, or Jambox being copied almost instantly. Until recently the high cost of tooling and marketing those copies made it less attractive to do so, but nowadays rapid prototyping, crowd funding and Internet marketing make it almost a breeze.
The question remains though, if the actual problem lies with the people who plagiarize our designs, or with the consumers who buy them? As long as consumers are willing to buy inexpensive knock-offs instead of valuing the original design, there is a market for plagiarism. And as long as there is a market available, plagiarism will happen. Plagiarism and consumerism go hand in hand, so where does the proper respect for original design come into play? The best and maybe only way is to be vigilant in your purchasing decisions. Buying authentic and original goods will make plagiarism a losing business practice.