The Sincerest Form of Flattery

April 14th, 2009 by Ilya Marritz

The 2009 Plagiarius Awards – honoring the most brazen violators of copyright law in consumer products – have been announced in Germany.

On the red carpet, a delightful procession of winning knockoffs next to their original twins. There’s a rolly black suitcase, originally made by a German company, and copied to near-perfection by a Chinese one…here are two toothed belt axes (huh?) whose only apparent difference is that one has a patch of red where the other is blue. Then there’s that jaunty green watering can, “Elise,” whose studied imitator was born in Hong Kong.

Since we don’t do this particular kind of public shaming in America, Businessweek interviews Plagiarius judge Doris Moeller:

How exactly did you judge these awards?

The jury [which also included several lawyers, professors, and journalists] looked at about 30 infringements. Products are included if the [counterfeiting] behavior is incredible, former employees are involved, or there are hints that the [plagiarist] got the information in an incorrect way. Each of the products in question has to be sold on the German market.

What are the repercussions of receiving an award?

There is a press conference that goes with the awards at which the companies are publicly blamed for bad behavior. That affords an opportunity to make issues like counterfeiting and piracy public. I think the media coverage really harms the producers hit by an award.

Perhaps no surprise: most of the copies originate in China or elsewhere in East Asia. But there’s a Canadian impersonator here, and a Greek one too.

Want to know more? Since 2007, Plagiarius has been exhibiting the best of the fakes at a museum in the small city of Solingen. Entry is 2 Euros for adults, but the photos of the museum are free of charge. So feast your eyes:

Plagiarius Museum

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