and corporate espionage makes you think of big business, hardware designs, chip specifications, and such. However, CES is a breeding ground for theft of ideas and designs of the less technical aspects of consumer electronics as well.
We talked with two companies who had questionable folks scouting their booths for ideas they could abscond with. How does a company protect itself?
This picture raised a lot of fuss by the exhibitor... read on why.
Walking around the many booths that lined the expo hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center
, various displays catch your eye. Always looking for a good photo to base a story upon, I stopped and aimed my camera at a wall of cell phone covers and ear buds bearing the image of the very popular Hello Kitty. An attendee rushed over and accosted me, interfering with my picture taking. When I showed him my bright red Press Badge, he immediately changed his demeanor and explained his behavior.
KJ Takahashi from the Overseas Business Department of Gourmandise
, headquartered in Japan with a California presence, explained that his company was on guard for knock off artists who would steal their designs. This is a company that has tried to do all the right things. They have paid dearly for the licensing of the Hello Kitty and Snoopy images from Sanrio
who owns the marketing rights to the cute kitten and to Peanuts characters in Japan.
Gourmandise’s legal use of Snoopy image on Samsung Galaxy SII cover
Takahashi says "Rude people come into our booth" and try to take our ideas. Gourmandise is also licensed to use the family of Bandai
images which include Power Rangers
. Additionally, they license Marvel characters, such as Spider Man. The right to use all these images on products you make requires quite an investment. Several companies have been sued for making knock offs without paying proper fees to the originators or owners of the copyright. Law suits are not uncommon in the fight to own the copyright
of popular characters. A legitimate company like Gourmandise wants to protect its ability to recoup its expenses.
So, legally, Hello Kitty graces the iPhone covers, the stereo earphones, headphones, and touch pens created by Gourmandise. Snoopy dances happily on the Galaxy SII without a care in the world, knowing he is safe from law suits from copyright owner Sanrio.
txtRng;) may look like a simple product to clone, but patents should deter rip off artists
I asked a newcomer to the electronics accessory arena if they had similar problems. txtRng;)
is a simple device worn on your texting digit to help with accuracy on your touch pads. Marni Peters, inventor and producer of the txtRng;) also told me of potentially unscrupulous individuals trolling her booth. She says "They are readily recognizable - they don’t ask questions, they won’t make eye contact"
and her tiny silicon rings are easy to pocket and walk away with. She promptly points out that her product has patents pending, hoping to deter them before they even attempt to steal her idea and her profits. On the positive side, potential investors have also visited Peters’ booth.
With the more than 153,000 attendees at CES 2012, the exhibition is bound to draw a few bad apples. The competition is fierce in the electronics industry - and accessories are the easiest to clone. Support the good guys. Verify the legality of the products you buy, give legitimate business efforts the reward they deserve.
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