Dylan McGrath, writing in EE Times, asks: Is emulating a product the same as stealing?
Since the original iPhone was introduced, competing smartphone vendors have understood that it was light years beyond anything that they had produced. And since that day in January 2007 every company that has produced or thought about producing a smartphone has had at some level a discussion about how it could create a product that emulates the iPhone. Companies have sought to understand why the iPhone is such a runaway success and tried to rub a little bit of that magic on their own products.
It’s human nature and common sense. If you are getting your brains beat out by a game-changing product, you need to figure out why and what you can do to produce something that appeals to consumers for the same or similar reasons. Otherwise, you need to pack it up and go home.
This is true in most industries. When one company introduces an innovation that changes everything, competitors must adapt or die.
The great Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde famously said, “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” It is the same in business and in virtually any other endeavor in life. If we do not learn lessons from those who are successful, we are doomed to failure.
At the same time, we can all agree that it is fundamentally unjust for anyone to blatantly rip off and profit from the genuine innovations of others. The question is, where do you draw that line? When does admiring and emulating a competing product that is kicking your butt become intellectual property theft?
No, we cannot “all agree that it is fundamentally unjust for anyone to blatantly rip off and profit from the genuine innovations of others.” There is nothing wrong with competing, emulating, copying, improving, borrowing, learning. So, in answer to: “The question is, where do you draw that line?” At zero IP protection. Patent and copyright law should be completely abolished. These are state-granted anti-competitive monopolies that violate property rights and are counter to the free market. They distort and reduce innovation and societal wealth, give rise to oligopolies, and so on.