Bummer, I really hope this can be resolved nicely. I would like to hear their side of the story.
For ZCD, this is a chance to be honest with the community here, while we may make up a small percentage of your potential business it is a chance to come clean and try and work things out. It always looks better in the long run to be honest about any early mistakes.
I do appreciate that ZCD are trying to bring new parts to the market, but doing so while hurting a member of the community is not the way to do it.
Regarding the basic topic as this was discussed on another forum I used to frequent and became quite familiar with the layman's aspect.
Basically you can indeed take someones idea.
For some clarification:
First party is the creators
Second party is the ones trying to recreate the product.
If you want to be good about it you would talk to them before hand, work out a royalty for the design in exchange for permission/advice/blueprints, or buy from them and resale. This is nice for certain companies as if the market is stagnant or they have low cash flow it is a chance to revitalize the product, maybe get some new features implemented and updates in terms of the product. This generally makes the least amount of money for the second party. First party benefits here, potentially gaining % without actually having to generate product. MSA does this to my knowledge, they just collect suppliers and resale. Not really taking someones idea, but they are selling it and profiting, with permission as far as I can tell.
There is the fix it tactic. You take an existing part or package, fix inherent problems or tweak some very small variable and offer them for resale with a markup, basically charging for their fix on top of the part which they buy at cost or the customer supplies. First party here is indifferent since they sell their parts at market value. Second party benefits from their fix, although most likely a small markup means small profit. Some aftermarket companies are based around this, they just sell fixes to other companies parts.
Lacking courtesy you can take their design, tweak it ever so slightly and call it new (lots of wheel manufacturers do this, you will find an extra spoke, a slightly different curvature, slightly less or more material, etc just to legally be slightly different). First party gets hurt, similar but fake products can hurt brand image and take away sales. Second party benefits, while brand image suffers, sales can be decent.
If you want to be fairly bad about it you could take their design, tweak it ever so slightly and put in a patent for it if the other party has not done so or is pending approval. Given certain sectors have very few patent clerks to oversee the entire field it can and does slip through. Once you have an established patent you can put out a cease and desist order even though someone may have the design and had been producing the part as long as you can claim you arrived at the idea by your own means with little to no connection to the company you can essentially steal their design and force them to pay royalties. First party looses massively here with potential for long legal battles they may be bullied into loosing a certain % of profit. Second company benefits massively, although they may be challenged and have to put up with a long legal battle on merits of original design.
Last is the worst way to do it, basically you find something profitable and steal the design, then you go to court and lock it up in legal disputes against the smaller company, if you want to actually win you can round up the designer/employees from the other company who are most likely suffering from the legal battle and offer them payouts for their rights. Once you get enough you claim you have ownership of the product and legally bully them out via legal injunctions. This destroys the first company. The second company wins the most here depending on their legal fees, although in the long run this prevents any collaboration for future products, makes it very difficult to innovate and in the end may be the killing blow.
Edited by seattlejester, 04 February 2017 - 12:04 AM.