It’s difficult, and wrong, to paint 1.4 billion people with the same brush. So let’s just say that the theft of creativity being discussed in this issue is being perpetrated by a few Chinese, not all Chinese, and that illegal activity is being done (primarily) on the Amazon site (and eBay), where thieves can easily determine what’s selling best – using Amazon’s metrics – and what is relatively simple to duplicate.
In our lead article for this issue, writer Lisa Readie Mayer concentrated primarily on the barbecue industry, and more specifically, barbecue accessories, which are usually easy to copy (see article "Stealing Creativity"). What she found is many small companies being hurt dramatically by thieves copying their ideas and, at times, actually posing as the companies they’re ripping off; they pluck images and words of praise from the original site in order to lure customers in.Maverick Housewares has spent $500,000 over the past five years defending its five patents on remote control thermometers. Bobby Brennan, co-owner and CEO of Kamado Joe, has spent about the same amount of money trying to get his corporate name back after his China-based supplier (of a small grid-lifter accessory) stole a graphics file of the brand’s logo and used it to apply for the Kamado Joe trademark in China. He already owned the mark in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and a number of other countries, but had not yet filed for it in China.
The counterfeiter (Brennan’s former supplier) still owns the patent in China but cannot export to the U.S. Brennan has since filed for an invalidation of the trademark in China. So the suit continues and the costs continue to rise. We’re told that many other grill manufacturers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting Chinese knock-off artists and protecting their patents.
A Need for Smaller Homes
In a column titled “Go Small or Go Home,” Frank Anton, vice chairman emeritus at Hanley Wood (publisher of Builder magazine), had the following advice for builders:
“In the 1970s and 1980s, when Boomers were first-time homebuyers, more than half of the new homes completed had fewer than 1,600 sq. ft. Since 2010, when the very first of those considered Millennials turned 30, only about 15% of the new houses completed were under 1,600 sq. ft., whereas the number of homes constructed with more than 3,000 sq. ft. was higher than any year in the 20th century.
“Maybe that’s one important reason why the nationwide rate of homeownership among 23- to 35-year-olds declined 18% from 1990 to 2015. And in high-cost markets, such as California, it declined 25% during that time frame.
“So it seems to me that if history is to repeat itself, more builders are going to have to commit to building smaller, more basic houses. Millennials apparently aren’t yet ready – or able – to buy a McMansion.”