Why I hate clones (and so should you)

carrot

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First off, I know that a discussion like this can get heated, so I will not name names and I also encourage the rest of you to do the same.

Why clones are bad for manufacturers:

1) A manufacturer wishing to best succeed in an ever expanding market must be able to differentiate themselves. Clones are relatively easy to make, and present a "me too" image for the manufacturer. This reduces brand value, because the only thing said product has going for it is its relative inexpensiveness to the original.

B) Every product a manufacturer makes is an opportunity to build a brand, by having a unique style, a unique feature set, and gaining customer loyalty through trust. Offering a clone represents a missed opportunity. It is important to note that forming a strong brand identity allows consumers to develop emotional connections towards a product, its brand and manufacturer, resulting in brand loyalty and "fanboyism." Having repeat loyal customers builds your customer base by word of mouth.

3) Having a unique style makes products instantly recognizable. Consider cars, where modern Cadillacs have a very angled look, new Fords have an impressive chrome grille, and Chryslers are updated retro. This helps to build brand awareness and gives your brand identity. A product with character is far more interesting to consumers than another "me too."

4) A manufacturer can enter a niche without copying the design and styling of another manufacturer's product. Again we will look at cars: Honda introduced the Fit, which is a very popular 5-door hatchback thanks to its lower price and excellent feature set. Compare to Toyota's Yaris, Chevy's Aveo, Kia's Soul, Ford's Fiesta and Nissan's Versa. All fill the same niche while still maintaining a brand identity, and more importantly, differentiating themselves. For instance, the Versa offers more comfort than the Fit, but less room.

Sadly I think those who would best benefit from this section will not read it.

Why clones are bad for the industry

A) Clones can only differentiate themselves on price, which has a strong bearing on quality. This forces a race to the bottom, which may initially seem good to consumers, can in the long run be harmful.

Consider the computer industry, where various manufacturers cloned the original IBM workstations, initially improving upon each other but turning PCs into a commodity (a win for Microsoft, which needed to commoditize PCs to popularize their software... but a loss for IBM, Compaq, et al. [more...]). Now many computer manufacturers compete on price which results in the flimsy machines that fail within 3 years. Note that making something into a commodity only benefits those who have built their businesses around that commodity, not the manufacturers of the commodity themselves. The race to the bottom can be attributed to the reason why we have not seen any major shifts in computing paradigms for years, until the uprising of the "Very Personal Computer" ie. current generation smartphones. (To prove that point, I wrote and edited this entire post on my iPhone.)

2) Encouraging clones discourages innovation. If a manufacturer decides to compete on price (and subsequently quality) alone, then the manufacturer must run on artificially lower margins, which means less money for R&D. Less R&D means less innovation. Without R&D we would not have better batteries, good optics, brighter LEDs, IC-based (programmable, smart or regulated) flashlights. On that note, we should consider that buying originals encourages the continuation of innovation and R&D by rewarding innovation.

Why clones are bad for consumers, and subsequently The Product

1) Clones indicate a lack of attention to detail. If a manufacturer cannot be bothered to come up with their own feature set and/or aesthetic styling, they also cannot be bothered to build a Product properly. I will not name names but those with a keen eye and sense of engineering who have both Brand A, high end product, and Brand B, high performance low cost product, where Brand B chooses to copy significant parts of Brand A's styling in order to piggyback on Brand A's popularity and brand image, will notice that Brand B has all sorts of interesting engineering shortcomings and a distinct lack of attention to detail. Brand C, high performance low cost product, with its own styling and some investment into R&D, will often tend to have better attention to detail because their brand is riding on their own image, not the coattails of others. Don't think for a moment that this applies to only flashlights. Consider my earlier car analogy and follow up by considering clone manufacturers and their reputation in that industry.

2) Clones do not offer as great a sense of worth. For many of us who are avid product users, whether something is a clone or not has little effect on its pure utilitarian value, aside my previous statement about quality and lack of attention to details. However, for many of us who are also collectors and cherish the products we own for whatever desirable properties they have, we can take pride in having and using an excellent, well-designed, thoughtfully engineered Product. Joy and satisfaction is hard to qualify but I take much greater satisfaction in using an Original Product than a clone. I think many others would also agree.

Now I don't deny that clones have their place in society and in the industry, but I don't believe clones deserve worship and praise either.

I welcome all comments, and encourage further discussion on the subject. Hopefully we can be levelheaded and mindful of others' feelings on this often heated topic.
 

csshih

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another great insightful post. Unfortunately, this is how the way things are going nowadays.... and it seems the vast majority of the public is embracing the idea.
 

divine

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I don't agree with copying designs, if someone takes the easy way out that is wrong.

Most of the topics that appear like this one seem to be anti-competition.

What happens if someone creates a clone that looks similar to another light, has a similar but slightly different UI, but ends up being better in every other way?

Don't ALL flashlights look similar and have similar control?

Wouldn't we all have to agree on what makes one product better than another for there to be any point to this? What if there is someone (and I am sure there is someone) who says a $9 product is better than a $10 product as long as it operates? I guess at that point you could do the "Well, the $10 product will last twice as long as the $9 product so you're paying more to use the $9 product than you are the $10 product." This isn't always true. Sometimes the $9 product is better than the $10 product.


Maybe I hate all companies for producing the same products with little variation.

Food for thought or fuel for flame. :)
 

carrot

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I don't agree with copying designs, if someone takes the easy way out that is wrong.

Most of the topics that appear like this one seem to be anti-competition.

What happens if someone creates a clone that looks similar to another light, has a similar but slightly different UI, but ends up being better in every other way?

Don't ALL flashlights look similar and have similar control?

Wouldn't we all have to agree on what makes one product better than another for there to be any point to this? What if there is someone (and I am sure there is someone) who says a $9 product is better than a $10 product as long as it operates? I guess at that point you could do the "Well, the $10 product will last twice as long as the $9 product so you're paying more to use the $9 product than you are the $10 product." This isn't always true. Sometimes the $9 product is better than the $10 product.


Maybe I hate all companies for producing the same products with little variation.

Food for thought or fuel for flame. :)
I have no problem with competition. I have a problem with lazy manufacturers.

My point is, nobody who outright copies a product bothers to actually make it better. Hypotheticals are great but I've never seen an example where two products looked exactly the same and the "clone" was better. Someone good enough to create a better product will also have the pride to differentiate the product aesthetically.

Flashlights do not look similar at all, yes there is a bezel, body, tail, some have turboheads and some do not, etcetera, but there are many aesthetic additions on every flashlight, every product sold on the market, that do not add significant functionality that can be argued as being completely necessary to the utility of the product. There's a copyright law based around that, actually.

I would never dare to argue the more expensive of two arbitrarily priced products is better based on price alone. Arbitrary is arbitrary. Clearly price is a factor of a product that may make it more palatable or less in one's mind but I would argue that price is not a fair factor to judge the quality, innovativeness, or utility of a product.

Here's some halon gas for your flame.
 

Brigadier

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Bingo. First thing I think to myself when I see a Rolex on someone's wrist is "Real or fake?"
 

fishx65

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This reminds me of the golfclub clone wars back in the eighties. By standing together, the big companies ended up winning. Now, most dedicated golfers wouldn't be caught dead swinging a set of clones. I think SF would go bankrupt trying to stop these clones from being sold.
 

gcbryan

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Bingo. First thing I think to myself when I see a Rolex on someone's wrist is "Real or fake?"

The first thing I think when I see a Rolex on someone's wrist is why?

I usually just wear a Timex since it seems to keep better time and then I attached a bag with $10k worth of gold to the wrist band just so that everyone that sees it will know that I have $10k to spend on a watch.
 
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GarageBoy

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The first thing I think when I see a Rolex on someone's wrist is why?

I usually just wear a Timex since it seems to keep better time and then I attached a bag with $10k worth of gold to the wrist band just so that everyone that sees it will know that I have $10k to spend on a watch.

It's a hobby, everyone has one. You're on a flashlight forum, not really one to criticize others.
Some people appreciate the quality that goes into a Rolex 3135 movement, some people appreciate how well the circuit inside a Fenix regulates...

The thing is, many large companies started out as clones. Early Canon cameras were fitted with the M39 screw mount (same as the Leica). Nikon rangefinders were a cross between Contax and Leica.

Some of these had features that Leicas didn't and was able to put themselves on the map this way
 

[email protected]

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If it weren't for the cloning of the original IBM PC the industry may have taken a more "exclusive" turn, putting cheap computers in the market lead to the better variance in design, competition & user configurability we enjoy today... I build my own PC's from (specifically chosen) specialist components and don't merely accept what the "price war suppliers" offer ;)

I guess you could say cloning significantly contributed to the exponential growth rate of the Computer Industry, did you read all of that article you linked to support your anti-clone arguement Carrot? IBM actually benefited from the growth in clones because they set out to commoditize the add-on market (components/hardware) of which they are a manufacturer :thumbsup:

Clone flashlights not only compete on price point some offer increased "user configurability" as well, known brands trade on their reputation, quality, warranty service and to some extent "snobbery value" ;)
 
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65535

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But how does cost matter, cloning something is just flagrant cheating. You buy a timex, you're not competing with Rolex like if you bought a fake.

Buying a Fenix vs. a Surefire is not like buying a chinese SF clone vs. a Surefire.
 

65535

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I think people in this thread tend towards the SF vs. any other production light made.

Seems many people fail to realize, Surefire doesn't care much as a company about some people with OCD about their flashlights. They don't care that you have a light that costs more than a chinese light. They make lights for government contracts, and as a bonus we can also purchase their products, but they don't care a whole lot about collectors.

Police forces, military organizations, and the like go Surefire, cheap chinese clones are not an option, Surefire knows that, they don't care much about those clones (or it doesn't seem like they should have to).

IMO it's lazy and irresponsible to go and buy some cheap chinese lights if you know about Surefire and know they're a copy.

People complain about the US economy, then go and spend $100 on cheap lights and electronics at a Chinese owned and operated website selling products that only support China's economy.
 

mclight

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blame the consumer. There's obviously a huge market for the clones - across many industries/products.

And blame globilization. China has become the world's factory. When MNC's setup up factories in China and engage Chinese ODMs - the MNCs expose their IP to be stolen, and cloned.

And, suppressed prices give the illusion of zero inflation.
 
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