Xiaomi, as an emerging Chinese electronic equipment company, is also widely known as a company that takes heavy inspiration from other companies’ idea and design, especially from Apple. For example, Mi 4 obviously takes inspiration from iPhone 4s and iPhone 5. However, the sales of Xiaomi is actually booming due to its low price tag and relatively reliable quality. In this article, we use the ethical cycle to argue with one moral problem: Whether product imitation an acceptable option?
The behaviour of imitation is also harmful to corporate image of the ‘idea thief’. The public usually has a common sense that the companies producing similar products after others do not have their own creativity and are more likely to produce products with low quality. The unhealthy corporate image and bad word of mouth may limit its market share and have negative effect on long-term development.
Assuming the engineers act with unquestioning obedience which produces similar but cheaper products, there is no way to guarantee the material and processing they used can stay the same quality requirement of the original product, which increases safety risks. Thousands of industrial accidents and product safety claims keep happening around the world every year due to usage of dangerous or counterfeit goods . Those products such as cheap phone chargers have even killed people.
Regarding law, if engineers obey the decisions of superior for self-interest considerations, the rights and interest of the company whose idea is stolen will be infringed. Furthermore, legal disputes often growths from intellectual property issues. Contravention of laws usually cost much more to compensate.
The engineer should refuse imitating even if the employer asks him/her directly to do so. Doing so may damage the engineer’s personal reputation. It is not guaranteed that the engineer will/can stay working in the same company for the whole career. If the engineer decided to hop for another job, it might be unfavourable for potential employers to hire an engineer with inglorious history of ‘stealing’ others’ design.
From the view of consumers that own the original products, the behaviour of imitation hurts their interests and rights since they paid more for the product. If the market is full of similar products from imitation, those consumers may feel offended because it might be difficult to figure out whether they own the genuine ones.
In the original author point of view, the imitation behaviour may significantly dampen motivation and enthusiasm of them to carry on R&D of new products. The company of originality may have spent years of time and a large number of their fund on the development of a new technology or product while it may only take a few months and little money for imitators to apply them to their products, which is obviously unfair. The imitated designers may reconsider if it is worth working hard to generate profits for competitors.
In addition, the unhealthy ways and customs will trigger vicious competitions of the market that brings in negative influence to development of the whole industry and disturb modern market economic order. There might not be enough product differentiation to fit potential difference of customer demand.
In a word, imitation should be banned and severely punished.
Compared with the original products with similar function, the price of the products from imitation are much lower. As a matter of fact, some customers cannot afford the high price of those original products, while the product from imitation is an excellent chance for them to taste and use the advanced techniques. So far，the vast population of China is still destitute, not everyone can afford to buy western products. Therefore, the imitations became effective advocacy genuine. In the long term, these goods might more likely to be entry-level commodities. It is to stimulate consumer demand from China’s emerging middle class to Western natural.
As there is enormous market demand for these products from imitation, at the same time, it is precise because of the tremendous demand, there is considerable profit space of these products for the company. The products from imitation can generate profits quickly for the enterprise. As an engineer working for business, we have the responsibility to have consideration for the benefit of the company. Furthermore, only when the company is in a good state, can engineer’s’ personal benefit be guaranteed.
What’s more, imitation can promote technology innovations. For the imitating company, they can learn a lot of advanced technical expertise from the simulation process, based on which some more advanced technique may arise. Therefore, copied is not the enemy of innovative, it is an important part of creation. Although imitation has its downside, also has a productive side. Almost all the innovations are based on previous work, but also to imitate and improve the existing design creatively; this is the power that driven the various fields of fashion, finance, software and others to go forward. Also, similar products can strengthen market competition, broaden the market and build brands. On the other hand, the products from imitation is also an impetus for the original product company. They will have much more effort to develop new technology to maintain their leading position in the industry. The competition of technology between the original product company and imitations company can promote significant development of this field.
For Chinese enterprises and individuals, imitation has irresistible benefits, the advantages of that is not only weaken Western competitors. Many Chinese businesses and individuals gain valuable experience of design and manufacturing capabilities through imitation of others original products. As the result is the emergence of a vast number of imitation affordable goods and services that will enable hundreds of millions of Chinese people to enjoy the benefits of the consumer society. Mimicry also helps the growth of China’s emerging middle class enterprises to create wealth and sales of original goods from Western companies. These people are representative of a vast population of potential new customers.
4: Neng Qian, Dian Guan, Haoyu Wang, Xianglu Kong