Since 1977, German designers and manufacturers have been taking things into their own hands.
Conceived by industrial designer and design professor, Rido Busse, the Plagiarius Award broadcasts to the German and global public the problem of fakes and plagiarisms.
It exposes the negative impacts product copying has on small business, and creative professionals working in product development and research.
Busse created the Plagiarius Award in 1977 after a visit to Ambiente, the consumer appliance fair in Frankfurt. He was confronted when he discovered a vendor promoting an imitation of a product he had designed for a client. What made things worse was that the vendor was undercutting the price of the original six fold.
As a trophy, Busse chose a gnome, which he painted black with a golden nose to signify “illicit earnings from product imitation”. The gnome is still awarded today to those selected lucky winners.
The Plagiarius awards have been presented annually at the Ambiente trade fair, under the spotlights at a specially arranged press conference.
The award is given to those companies that a jury of lawyers and business notables have found guilty of making “the most flagrant” design imitations.
Based in, Germany, Action Plagiarius now manages the awards program. The group offers advice and support to designers and innovators concerning their intellectual property rights by also facilitating workshops, exhibitions and lectures relating to the protection of their ideas
“Imitators pursue one goal only: to profit at the expense of the hard work of others – and this affects designers, manufacturers and consumers alike,” says Action Plagiarius.
“The guilty parties always copy successful products. By being awarded, they are caught, not only attempting to save on expensive costs for research, development and marketing, but also in production costs by outsourcing production to countries where labour costs are often much lower.”
This can sometimes result in the production of lower quality products, which Action Plagiarius see as, “ultimately at the expense of the consumer”, citing pharmaceuticals and poorly designed toys as examples.
Action Plagiarius believe they have achieved a “heightened sensitivity amongst the public for the problem and amongst entrepreneurs and designers for the significance of intellectual property rights”.
They claim to have contributed to the introduction of the Product Piracy Law of 1990, which includes a prison sentence for imitators of up to five years.
A Plagiarius citation is said to have had a deterring effect on five to ten percent of imitators who live in fear of public disgrace.
Some ‘award winners’ admit to their unethical behaviour and seek a mutual agreement with the original producer. It may be in the form of payment of a licence or compensation fee, or total withdrawal of the offending product from the market.