Brompton fights off lookalike

By Richard Peace | Thursday, June 24, 2010 3.02pm

Brompton Bicycle Ltd. seem not to have felt all that flattered when what they considered an imitation of their hugely popular folding bicycle started to appear in Spain. Instead they went to court and have just announced victory.

The court in Madrid decided that the “OXFORD” bicycle, manufactured by Grace Gallant in Taiwan and marketed under several trademarks, constituted an infringement of Brompton’s intellectual property rights and ordered an injunction of their importation, distribution and sale.

Emerson Roberts, Brompton’s Sales and Marketing Director, commented:

“We have always welcomed fair competition which advances the cause of cycling but these imitations merely borrow from years of hard work and innovation, adding nothing of value to the market, and confusing our customers.”

This is not the first time that Brompton, based in Brentford and producing over 26,000 bikes a year, have had to defend themselves against imitations.

A lookalike called the “Merc” was previously imported into the UK and Brompton had to get into copyright litigation to prevent this. In 2004, the firm had to go to law in The Netherlands to see off another imitator, the “Scoop One”. The ruling included the right to have the infringing bikes destroyed; Brompton’s Benelux distributor arranged a public Scoop-dismantling competition at a Dutch bike show.

When questioned by BikeRadar if piracy was a big problem within the Taiwanese bicycle industry, Quinton Pullinger of Brompton, who worked for a number of years in Taiwan, said:

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“The Taiwan bike industry has come a long way from its days of being perceived as a ‘copy cat’ manufacturing base.”

Taiwan has invested a lot of time and money in order to become the world’s leading manufacturer of quality bicycles and along the way most companies have modernised and created IP of their own.”

“Those companies are less likely to infringe on intellectual property as they know the value it has for their businesses. In recent years the A-team was created to bring quality manufacturers together to further increase quality, design and the development of intellectual property. So we cannot say that Taiwan and its bicycle industry are at fault.”

“The government has also improved laws on IP protection for local and foreign entities. Unfortunately, a small number of companies focus solely on financial gains and copy whatever is popular at the time. As soon as they are confronted with any legal claims, they simply close up shop, declare bankruptcy and open a new business next door and continue what they were doing. It is a case of a minority giving the majority a bad reputation, but Taiwan is not a copy island. It has transformed into an island of innovation and technological advancement.”

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