I was visiting a factory in China last year and saw a very distinctive element from a product that I designed on a competitor’s prototype (it was not a bike related product for the record). As if it wasn’t blatant enough, my product was sitting on the workbench right next to the competitor’s design. The factory owner assured me that it was an “accident” and he had some of his employees destroy the prototype. Accident or not, that type of “design inspiration” is common when many companies in an industry share the same overseas suppliers. I mentioned just one example, but I have on numerous occasions seen competitors come out with designs that are very similar to mine. The vast majority of the time I later learn that those products “just happened” to come from the same factory in China. Anytime several competing companies share the same supplier, the temptation is there to see what the competition is doing. So who is to blame for this problem, Chinese factory owners or American business executives who press them for a sneak peak at their competitor’s future product offerings? Okay, you don’t have to answer that. I am starting to get off on a tangent, so lets get back to the discussion about bikes.
Slippyfish posted on the Core77 message board about his bicycle designs, which he feels were copied by a competitor. He posted images of two different bikes that he designed for Kestrel and compared them to products from Orbea. The bikes are not exactly the same, but I agree with him that certain elements, like the polished metal integrated seatpost collars shown here, are too similar to just be coincidence. Personally, I like the design of the Orca frame a lot, so I was disappointed to see that maybe certain elements were “borrowed” from the Kestrel design. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think. I would especially love to hear from someone at Orbea. Any comments?