Issue 64: Dave’s World: Kite Copies

I recently received a letter from Robert Van Weers in New Zealand which he asked me to share with serious kite fliers. The letter was circulated January first and has since seen a great deal of discussion in various online forums and discussion groups.

The issue is a serious one.

We are kite designers and builders.

Some of us develop our new designs professionally to support our income, and some of us make kites for fun. All of us love what we do and to share creations with our friends in the kite world. We are proud of our designs and work very hard to make them.

We are surprised, disappointed, and offended that the German manufacturer, KEWO, has copied our work and is selling them commercially. They do this without our permission, without compensation, and without even giving us credit for the many hours needed to make a new kite fly.

For many of us, this issue is not about money, but about the simple idea that stealing our designs for commercial gain is wrong and should not be tolerated by the kite community. And of course, the copies are often inferior which makes the problem worse.

We have asked KEWO to stop and they simply ignore our letters and emails. Some of us only asked that our names be noted as the inventor of a design and didn’t ask for money. KEWO even denied this simple request!

This problem affects all kiters. If we are copied now, you may be copied in the future. And of course, there is less encouragement for any of us to work on new designs knowing that a manufacturer with no sense of honesty or honor can simply steal them.

It is impossibly expensive to patent each new kite design and lawyers take time and money with uncertain results, especially when dealing on a global basis.

We prefer to address this in the Court of Kiters rather than a Court of Law.

To ask you not to buy our kites from KEWO is against German law. But we hope that you will understand our irritation, frustration and incomprehension.

Please share this news with your kite friends. Tell kite storeowners, club officers, and event organizers. Please join us in objecting to KEWO Kopies!

Stealing from one of us is stealing from all of us!

[twocol_one]Robert VanWeers, New Zealand
Ludovico Bertozzi, Italy
Geoff Cambell, New Zealand
Franchesca Caton, United Kingdom
[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Peter Lynn, New Zealand
Martin Lester, United Kingdom
Charlie Watson, New Zealand
Frank Schwiemann, Germany

Many of the products involved are made under license by GKPI and commissions paid to the designers. (Some of these designers also do work for Premier and New Tech.) But loss of sales or income is not as important as a broader issue for all of us. And that is loss of integrity in the kite community.

We understand that price is an issue for our friends and customers.

Astute observers might ask why other people can sell a kite for less. The answer is that they aren’t paying a commission to the designer. A $10 manufacturing commission can easily add $30 to the retail price of a smaller inflatable.

This letter is about one company that operates primarily in Europe. But increasingly, we’re seeing Asian firms on Ebay or web pages or emails, offering large kite copies at low prices.

From Gomberg's web site!
From a chinese web site!

We have no problems with original designs developed and sold direct from off shore.

What we do have a problem with are copies of kites that we make and sell. And we have a particular problem with firms that not only copy our designs, but literally copy photos from our own web pages to try and market them.

Buyers report that most of these imports have been crap. But recently, the quality and performance of copies has gotten better.

Our lawyers tell us we have the option of suing the maker, the seller, and even the buyer of counterfeit kites. Sue the Chinese? If MicroSoft can’t stop them, how can we?

That leaves going after the end-user. But putting aside for the moment the huge cost involved in doing that, can you imagine the reaction if GKPI ended up suing Joe the Kiter??

Our strong preference is to educate people, to help them understand that they have a stake in the success of kite designers and local kite businesses, and to encourage them to do the right thing. Instead of bragging that they got a good deal, and being admired by their friends, we want people who support the rip-offs to be embarrassed and shamed.

Now, all that being said, I also need to tell you that GPKI is not perfect. We make mistakes. We’ve researched designs brought to us by customers, believed them to be in the public domain, started production, and then later were contacted by frustrated designers. And in those cases, we’ve tried to do the right thing by giving credit, paying commissions, and in some cases, building productive new long term relationships.

The copy-kite issue isn’t going to go away. But we ask you serious kiters out there to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Thanks!

David Gomberg