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LONDON -

Televisions, radios and video recorders. The list of consumer items originated in the West, but copied and perfected in Asia is long. Now will cars be added to that list? Yes, according to DaimlerChrysler, which claims that a Chinese auto manufacturer is blatantly cloning one of its designs. And Daimler is mulling legal action against its Chinese counterpart in response.

Daimler's luxury car compatriot, Bayerische Motoren Werke (other-otc: BAMXF - news - people ), may reportedly also join in the attack.

The alleged counterfeiter is Shuanghuan Automobile, whose Noble car looks uncannily similar to Daimler's Smart Fortwo. Its CEO model also looks a lot like BMW's X5. An official source from DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ), who wished to remain anonymous, said that the company had already contacted Shuanhuan about the Noble.

This isn't the first time China's carmakers have been berated for basically copying Western car design. Beijing has already felt the heat about it from various car companies, and last year Daimler managed to stop another Chinese car firm, CMEC from making an electric car that closely resembled its ubiquitous Smart car.

Daimler has not officially said whether it will be pursuing legal action against Shanguan. But it could take a similar route to the one taken with CMEC, and settle out of court.

"The Fortwo is a revolutionary vehicle with a cult status worldwide, so it's no surprise that others want to copy it," a DaimlerChrysler spokesman said.
 

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smart happens here!
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The latest on the story..... looks like the two sides will butt-heads!
Mercedes-Benz says it will take legal action if the Noble goes on sale in Europe, and 1000 units have already been assigned to a dealer for sale in Italy. BMW has already initiated legal action against the same Beijing based company to stop sales of the X5 SUV ripoff CEO.
 

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CMEC Price: Great, Top Speed: Not so Great!

Keepin' it real fake, part XXXV: China's CMEC duplicates Smart Car design
Posted Oct 17th 2006 11:55AM by Paul Miller
Filed under: Transportation


Yeah, cellphones, media players and logo'd clothing items are all well and good, but if you really want to stand out in China's competitive market of highly commercial disregard for intellectual property, you've gotta think big. That's why we're so impressed by CMEC, who not only managed to rip off an entire car, but are also sneaking their electric version of the Smart Car into one of Smart's own favored markets -- Great Britain. While externally the "City Smart" from CMEC is virtually identical to the Fortwo model that inspired it, CMEC modded up the interior a bit to avoid legal woes: "When we designed the car we were aware that we might be opening ourselves up to legal action," sez Jerry Chen, sales manager for CMEC. "That's why we've imitated the outside but concentrated on making the interior look different." Um, right. Their electric motor is also quite a departure from the real Smart cars, and while its 34MPH top-speed won't have it venturing far from congested city streets, it's hard to complain about the 4,200 euro ($5,270 US) pricetag. Well, other than the incredibly shady legality of the whole affair. DaimlerChrysler, parent company of Smart, is currently doing its darnedest to keep the City Smart out of the rest of Europe, while they prep their own Fortwo successor that most certainly will cost more than $5k, but is also more likely to involve certain niceties like original design and at least a teensy bit of pep.

[Via The Raw Feed]
Tags: china, city smart, CitySmart, cmec, kirf, smart car, SmartCar
 

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Legally vs Ideally

Legally, the Chinese automaker deserves a lawsuit. I find that unfortunate, but true and fair.

The reason I think that's too bad is that the presence of a Chinese Smart Car source would cure all the short supply woes bemoaned all over this website. Clearly China is capable of producing much larger quantities of the cars we want, for way less money.

China is also not going to withhold the best technologies from the US market the way it seems Daimler is thinking of doing with the Diesel Smart Car. China will just produce what is demanded, with no ulterior motives. I think Daimler is holding back on the 70mpg diesel car because it trumps other more expensive "green car" options that it wants to sell first. I bet we will see Daimler holding back on this option until a competitor brings a similar platform to market, and then they will open the gates and sell it as a form of damage control.
 

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The reason I think that's too bad is that the presence of a Chinese Smart Car source would cure all the short supply woes bemoaned all over this website. Clearly China is capable of producing much larger quantities of the cars we want, for way less money.
Yep, if China was cranking out smart cars I know there would be at least one less person in line waiting for one as well. I would rather walk to work.
 

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E-Smart

I bet in a court the Chinese maker could claim MB abandoned the 450 design.... They still have some legal issues, but the patent is probably near to, if not already, expired ...that is, if they have had it as long as I think... late 80's IIRC

The bigger concern in my mind is if, or if not, the China Smart Clones can live up to the safety design of the Tridion...

I like the guts of Jerry Chen, sales manager for CMEC.... but I question his wisdom.... If he had stuck with third world emerging markets and stayed the hell away from Italy or Great Birtton...I doubt anyone would know or care....
 

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E-Smart

I bet in a court the Chinese maker could claim MB abandoned the 450 design.... They still have some legal issues, but the patent is probably near to, if not already, expired ...that is, if they have had it as long as I think... late 80's IIRC
Something vaguely similar happened with Caterham (http://www.caterham.co.uk) some years back. In 1973 Colin Chapman (Lotus) personally turned over the licensing and tooling and stock and all rights to the continued production of the Lotus Seven to Caterham Cars, Surry, Eng. Lotus even designed the new nose badge for the Caterham (a rounded triangle like Lotus, but with a "7" instead of "CABC," inverted, and of opposite green and yellow colors). Caterham chose to build the Series Three car vice the then current-but-unpopular Series Four. Almost immediately after Lotus made the transfer of production a number of people started making knock-off "Seven S.3s" (and still do). One maker, Westfield, reverse- engineered a Lotus Seven S.3 and claimed that they had the right to do so because Lotus was making the S.4s at the time of the transfer. Caterham took Westfield to court and won handily. Thence forward, Westfield and all other knockoffs, by precedent of English case-law, have to be substantially different from the original Lotus/Caterham, and be designated a "replica" or "replicar." Birkin is currently skirting that law by manufacturing in S. Africa (and I doubt selling in the UK). Caterham is the only legal continuation of the Lotus.
 

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Even if its the old design ...

I doubt it can be sold without compensation or a license granted to the original designer. Some designs appear to go on indefinitely (i.e., the original AC Cobra that was copied by many Kit Car companies ended up in court and they had to drop the name Cobra ... they still make something similar though I believe they settled out of court). The 'new' mfg argued that the Cobra was not being actively sold, etc. but Shelby got around that one and won.

There are also instances where the original mfg will license an old design for another mfg who wants to use it ... Wasn't a Yugo an old Fiat design??? ... EWWW, bad example I guess.

Not a legal expert myself but this copy looks pretty blatant and now of course gov's are involved so it should be short-lived.
 

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Actually this is done a LOT more then we ever know and businesses sue each other all day long...setteling more often then have judgments levied... I think the whole thing is ironic.... MB can't seem to make 700,000 units sold be profitable...has trouble with delivery and changes and a China company seems to fill the void...

The dummies could have easily sold 50,000 copies right here first year.... too bad they are short sighted

When I was in Germany this year I heard carping about the Smart availability

On the Brit sites similar carping

In Canada same thing... and we know how most of us are still not happy with the 2008 roll out... I think Dr Z needs to take a closer look at global car sales and delivery.... the only way to make money with a cheap econo car is in VOLUME SALES....
 

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While the Chinese car may look like a smart that is where any comparison ends. I believe has is a front mounted engine with poor craftsmanship and materials. I travel to China often and see this replica as no threat to the high quality of th MB backed smart. Perhaps that could change in time but not this round.
 

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Protectionism

Maybe it will be the auto industry that will bring the Chinese copyright infringment to a stop.

To have their representatives say things like, "We knew that there. . " could be problems so we redesigned the interior. Smacks of the audacity rampant throughout all industries and their lack of concern for the original work and labors of others.

Maybe, just maybe, other companies that have had copyright infringements will band together, unite with the auto companies and tie China up and teach them how to be a global player.

Would that be an anti-trust violation? Should they be allowed in order to protect their industries from theft?

I think they should.
 

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Easier said than done. Fact is: if someone will make it, someone else, somewhere, will buy it.

Maybe it will be the auto industry that will bring the Chinese copyright infringment to a stop.

To have their representatives say things like, "We knew that there. . " could be problems so we redesigned the interior. Smacks of the audacity rampant throughout all industries and their lack of concern for the original work and labors of others.

Maybe, just maybe, other companies that have had copyright infringements will band together, unite with the auto companies and tie China up and teach them how to be a global player.

Would that be an anti-trust violation? Should they be allowed in order to protect their industries from theft?

I think they should.
 

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Like everything else that comes from China, this is probably a piece of s**t. I have made it a mission to search for items, no matter what they are, that are NOT made in China.

It's hard but it is possible. The more we refuse to buy their junk, the better it is for us and our European friends. As I understand it, China is responsible for a great deal of our national debt (we owe them).

Trading with China has already come back to bite us in the butt. We need higher tariffs and more regulations to give locals here a chance to compete.

Sheetrock with nasty chemicals in it. Baby Formula that is tainted. Toys with lead paint. And on and on. They do what they like and plop it in our laps, and then we buy the junk.

We really need to get organized as a country in order to fight this. But then, how could we ever do that when our own representatives can't agree on a decent health care bill. (among other things) I have never voted for a party and always voted for a person and their ideals. Unbelievable.

DR
 
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