Tales of vehicular-design copies within the worldwide Automotive sector have always held their own. There are countless examples of this – an old classic comparison being the 1930’s Chrysler Airflow eventually followed up a few years later with the introduction of the Toyota AA, springs to mind – but as it’s a far more difficult process to copyright a shape as opposed to a logo or a feat of engineering, the plagiarism of a design itself brings about legitimate questions of morality and ethics.
Of course, this is all subjective so therefore we are forced to consider the often foggy areas of whether these ongoing (and ever-increasing) practises are spurned from notions of inspiration, trends, evocation or homage. The worst-case scenario, of course, being blatant plagiarism.
With the surging advent of the internet alone, Logo designers are increasingly susceptible to plagiarism of their creations. All it takes is a few clicks here and there on the internet and a modicum of basic photo-shop know-how to produce your own alarmingly similar re-creation. Even the Google leviathan hasn’t been spared of this slightly unethical practise as it has placed the warning-lasers on a Chinese search engine site of which the logo is hilariously similar to that of Google.
In the ever-expanding automotive world though, nowhere is this eyebrow-raising ‘borrowing’ found to be most persistent (and more-importantly, accepted within its own market) than in the massively flourishing and developing Korean, Chinese and Malaysian sectors. By now, most of you will have undoubtedly been exposed to the almost comical, near-copy designs being rolled out by these emerging automotive companies. Yet it should be noted that this is nothing new – this sort of thing has been going on for decades – but never before has the impending levels of exposure towards these near-copies sparked so much debate and cause for lengthy/expensive legal battles.
But something that cannot be ignored is the sheer amount of exposure these burgeoning companies receive every time it rolls out another questionable copycat – You couldn’t beg for that much Press coverage. The attention (be it positive or negative or indifferent) that Chinese manufacturer Shuanghuan received as a result of its blatant BMW and Mercedes design rip-offs back in 2007 was a potent example (yet, unfortunately for Shuanghuan, build-quality and low safety ratings squashed their worldwide attack-plan). Is it all intentional…? Does this increase overall sales…? Regardless, this inevitably brings about the age-old question of whether or not it’s illegal to copy a vehicle design and does intellectual copyright protect those designs…?
I’m far from being any sort of design expert on cyclic or regurgitated tendencies within the design industry, but one thing we’ve definitely noticed is how some American car designs are now becoming re-interpretations of Japanese designs that were mainly influenced and re-interpreted from German and British manufacturers to begin with..! For heavens sake, the new Maserati Kubang SUV looks like it came straight from the KIA factory floor…
My point being that everything is starting to look like, well… nothing in particular – just floating designs that are now being forever borrowed, re-interpreted and pablum-ised into a funnel of mis-matched dreck. I look at any number of car designs on the roads nowadays from the Big Guns of the auto industry and yet, aside from the logo and name-badging telling me what it is, most of the time I’d have a right good head-scratchy moment of trying to figure out its identity.
Aside from placing a piece of tracing-paper over top of another design, are all of these modern-age near-copies a sign of naivete..? Or simply undiluted audacity…?