Shipwreck reveals ancient market for knock-off consumer goods

(arstechnica.com)

89 points | by Tomte 246 days ago

2 comments

  • jacquesm 245 days ago

    Before trade dress and other IP nonsense became the law 'knock-off' simply meant culture transfer.

    • gbear605 245 days ago

      It’s culture transfer when a company makes something and then another company makes a poor copy that sells for cheap? The only reason it’s cross-cultural in our modern world is that Chinese firms tend to not follow American IP law.

      • iak8god 245 days ago

        You may find this short article interesting:

        https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/06/we-were-pirates-too/ We Were Pirates, Too Why America was the China of the 19th century.

        • chillacy 245 days ago

          I find discussion on IP theft that spends too much time moralizing to be an ineffective argument, in part because of the hypocrisy, but also because it probably won't work on people with completely different values.

          If we accept that we are Britain in the 1800s, and that we enjoy certain benefits to being the reserve currency of the world, then the question becomes, what strategically can the US do to remain the dominant player in the world?

          Can transfer of technology know-how be stopped, given the changes in the world since 1800? If anything information is more available than ever, so it seems like a losing battle.

          What about a show of force, like the Opium War forced Beijing to open its markets? Tricky as well, on one hand.. nuclear war. On the other hand, that power disparity continues to narrow over time, if there were a time to risk it all it would be now.

          I'm sure there are other strategies out there as well, but those are two that come to mind.

          • eloff 245 days ago

            Or instead of risking nuclear war, where there are no winners, only losers - just accept that things change and you can't be top dog forever.

            That said, I don't actually think China will replace the US as top dog. It's growing faster yes, but has serious Japan-like demographic problems fast approaching. The thing about demographic problems is they're predictable and almost impossible to escape.

            In absolute dollar value terms, the US is still competitive with China, which means they'll likely never close that gap before their demographics catch up with them.

            • vtange 245 days ago

              Top dogs will always try to stay top dog for as long as possible and they are willing. It is what people would naturally do even if the stage was a video game, or if they were fighting for civil rights. Some people tend not to just "know their place."

              • eloff 245 days ago

                I fully agree that it goes against human nature and history. However, it has to go against those things. We live in an age of weapons so terrible that the kind of global conflict that defined the first half of the twentieth century must just never happen again because the consequences would be truly unthinkable. Advanced civilization is a fragile thing. We gain a lot of efficiency from extreme specialization - but we also lose a lot of resiliency. A global nuclear war would end civilization as we know it, and who knows how long it would take to recover - especially with the easily accessible resources already consumed.

                That's not to say that it won't happen - but we shouldn't permit it, or support those who would.

            • jfoutz 245 days ago

              Culture exports. Hollywood and the internet spring to mind. The cia apparently funded a lot of modern art to show american cultural supremacy.

              • est 245 days ago

                the simplest solution is US incorporates China. Following the previous discussion of G2.

              • vanderZwan 245 days ago

                Philips did a similar thing regarding light bulbs. Edison was strangling the market through patents, the Netherlands didn't care about patents, and everyone who wanted to work on light bulbs but did not want to work for Edison (like, say, the small competitors run out of business by him) flocked to Philips. They quickly had the best and cheapest light bulbs in the world. Well, until planned obsolescence kicked in.

                • _iyig 245 days ago

                  In the summer of 1812, when Francis Cabot Lowell stole the plans for textile weaving machines as described in the article, the U.S. and Great Britain were two nations at war (or on the cusp, depending on the month). I notice this detail often left out when this story is used to excuse theft of U.S. research and development output.

                  Stealing the fruits of another’s investment is not the act of a friend or ally.

                  • posterboy 245 days ago

                    With the last remark, you are either saying that China and USA are not friends, or that IP theft is not theft.

                    Either way, the comparison falls flat trivially, because the looms of today are gigantic production plants. Stealing cad files is rather like stealing a weaving pattern ... which I hear is a thing and an old example of copyright infringement.

                    • yellowapple 245 days ago

                      "China and USA are not friends" and "IP theft is not theft" both happen to be at least somewhat true.

                      • gbear605 245 days ago

                        China and the USA should not be friends. China is committing mass genocide and is overall a horrible country. The USA definitely has some problems, but nowhere near the same level. Americans should encourage the USA to not be friendly toward China. Similarly, people in other countries should ask the same of their governments.

                        Of course, that doesn’t justify any racism or hatred toward individual Chinese people, especially immigrants who have had no role at all in causing this. It’s a moral obligation to be good to other people, and this includes making sure that other people do not commit genocide.

                • jacquesm 245 days ago

                  That they 'sell for cheap' in the original market is a thing that historically would have been a lot harder to accomplish than today. Transport used to be very expensive so local manufacture was the norm. Or did you miss the 'before' bit?

                  • JetSpiegel 245 days ago

                    Cheap is always relative. The real deal would have to be transported too.

                  • jacobwilliamroy 245 days ago

                    But what if the IP thieves were never in any position to compete with the IP holders in the first place? In consumer goods, the knockoff market is made up almost entirely of people who can't afford brand-name goods. How can nike lose customers that don't exist?

                    • tschwimmer 245 days ago

                      The market populations are not so bifurcated as you are laying out here. In the knock off market, Some consumers will continue to buy the name brand good. But many others (dare I say most) who are less affluent or care less will move over to the knockoff. Since the knockoff isn’t means tested or restricted, the risk of losing customers is very real.

                      • jacobwilliamroy 245 days ago

                        Do you mean most people who consume a brand name product will switch to a knockoff? Or most people who consume a brand name product and are less affluent/care less will switch to a knockoff? The sentence structure is unclear.

                        • tschwimmer 245 days ago

                          Some of the people consuming a name brand product in a market without alternatives will switch over to the knockoff if it comes to market.

                  • TheSpiceIsLife 245 days ago

                    Trade dress

                    I got an inkling from the word combination and context. Looked it up anyway:

                    Trade dress protection is intended to protect consumers from packaging or appearance of products that are designed to imitate other products; to prevent a consumer from buying one product under the belief that it is another.

                    Trade dress is a legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers.[1] Trade dress is a form of intellectual property.

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_dress

                  • mc32 246 days ago

                    That a small percentage were authentic and the vast majority were copies seems to indicate that clients could distinguish quality or provenance?

                    Other than trace elements which speak to provenance, was there a qualitative difference in the ceramics?