Copy Cats – Copying Can Be Cool

If you look at successful companies and products there is a list of them that have been very successful by getting inspired by similar products

There is an aura to innovation. To be called an innovator is a big ego boost. It creates a superiority complex and there is a rarefied air around the innovator.

On the flip side, I wonder how many like being called Copy Cat or Not Original? Not very cool and certainly not a tag which you would like to have.

But if you look at successful companies and products there is a list of them which have been very, very successful.

The dream of many – Apple had copied the Mouse and also the GUI (Graphical User Interface from Xerox PARC). PARC did sue Apple but lost out due to some technicalities. The first Apple Macintosh was inspired by the GUI.

The list from Microsoft is huge. MS Basic copied Tiny Basic. MS-DOS copied CPM-86. Windows copied the early Mac OS. Word copied WordPerfect. Excel copied Lotus 1-2-3. Access copied FoxPro. Windows Server copied Novell Netware. Exchange copied Lotus Notes. Internet Explorer copied Netscape Navigator. C# and .net copied Java.

Rumour has to Google copied bits from iOS for its Android. Not surprised that Jobs was livid with Google especially since Eric Schmidt the erstwhile CEO of Google was on the board of Apple.

It is not that even consumer products have not faced this. Closer home the big daddy- Unilever copied Henkel’s Fa in India and called it Liril. The marbled effect, the shape, the colours and the fragrances were copied. Why even the advertising jingle was copied. The success of Liril is the story of lore in India.

Modern trade chains regularly successfully copy products from established manufacturer brands.

There are a string of products/ molecules copied by pharmaceutical manufacturers which have helped bring down costs and increase distribution

There are examples aplenty of how many brands/ products have been copied or inspired by others. The key implications are:

  • There is no harm in copying provided IP is not violated.
  • The copier can give a better product/ value than the original creator.
    •   Microsoft was smart to learn from the mistake of others, launch products which were far more acceptable and then, use the leadership (near monopoly) position to ensure that customers adopted the software.
  •  Success does not come from creating a product/ service but from reaching and providing value to a customer.
  •   Leverage customer accessibility to increase value to the customer.
    • Distribution costs especially in the online world are negligible.
    •  Modern trade chains have access to a set of customers and hence can provide products that compete and provide more value to the end consumer.

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