People come to me all the time who are worried about their IP in China. Are their designs going to be safe in China ? Is their China vendor going to sell their product to other companies ? etc etc. But I also have small US or Canadian companies who come to me asking me to help them source a US or Canadian competitor’s product in China. In other words their objective is to take someone else’s IP and have it made in China. And in the end the Chinese get the bad rap.
I really am uncomfortable when people come to me with these requests. I respect IP and I will not help someone source something unless it is their own or is such a widely sold i.e. generic product that there really is no IP e.g. blue jeans. Fortunately most of the people who approach me do so with their own designs and their own products in hand. And these are the people I love to help. But the inspiration for this post was when a start-up company asked me the other day about sourcing a much larger competitor’s product in China ( typical young 20-something start-up company mentality IMHO). They suggested to me that they could just go to the competitor’s factory and buy some of the product for themselves ( with my help of course). I told them that not only would I not help them but it was fanciful thinking. No factory in China is going to jeopardize a longstanding profitable relationship with an existing customer by supplying those same goods to a fledgling start-up. In the old days, it would have happened and did as vendors in those days cared only about maximizing profits. I have heard stories and have seen it myself. But this does not happen anymore. If it does it is rare.
And I thought back to a project I had a few years ago. A US children’s product company had asked me to source what looked to be a pretty generic item. I reached out to some vendors in China and one vendor told me that the product I was inquiring about was too close in design to one of their own customer’s products and so they could not help me. I was impressed by that response and ever since then I have advised clients of mine that when they give projects to vendors in China they should be sure about their IP, aware that, in spite of what they hear to the contrary, Chinese vendors do care about and respect IP. And I have to say that after the inquiry last week it seems to me that vendors in China sometimes respect IP more than their Western customers.