Let’s explore how this process would work…
Taking inspiration from existing products is an established practice
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
You may have heard this saying, and it’s quite clear that most manufacturers these days take inspiration from other products on the market and imitate them in different ways.
For instance, it’s standard practice for automakers to purchase their competitors’ vehicles and conduct a product teardown to understand which components are used and how, what is working well, design aspects, etc.
Does this information influence their own products afterward? Absolutely. But we must be careful not to infringe on IP and behave unethically.
Creating a new product based on an existing product
Let’s explore an example scenario:
- You have found an existing product you want to modify, in this case, a ceiling fan
- You do not know who originally manufactured the fan
- You want to change the color
- You want to add a totally new switch to the body
- The fan’s controller will have to work differently
With this in mind, you want to know how to create a new product based on the ceiling fan.
Is it possible?
First, let’s consider who manufactured it.
Even if we could find the original manufacturer/s of the product, which is unlikely, they may not own the product design. Even if they agree to produce it for you with some adjustments (this can happen in China), that’s unethical if it’s someone else’s IP.
Remember, R&D stands for ‘Research & Development’, not ‘Rip-off and Duplicate’. If another company owns that design, they will be quite displeased to see you working with their manufacturer to make a very similar product. That manufacturer will be at fault if they pretended they owned the intellectual property, but you will also be at fault for not double-checking that claim.
Therefore, in order to behave ethically, your product needs to be re-developed from scratch.
👉 Related: This is exactly why you need to use an enforceable manufacturing agreement with suppliers.
Here’s the good news
The good news is that you already have:
- A clear scope of features you want to include in your product
- The existing product for reference – your design engineers can take some inspiration from it, without copying all of what makes it differentiated in the marketplace
This means that it should be a reasonably straightforward new product development project.
However, the project’s feasibility will depend on a number of factors, including:
- Your budget
- Projected sales volume, and marketing/sales budget
- Required quality standard
- Certifications/compliance in the countries of sale
The process you could follow to get your product made
In order to bring a product to market that is inspired by an existing one, you might consider this process:
- Confirm there is no design patent on it (I’d suggest you conduct research on this point) and write a short brief about what the product is, where and how it is used, what type of components or materials (direct contact with food?) go into it, what your logo design is, etc.
- Get a sample (of the existing product) and reproduce its design into 3D CAD drawings and 2D drawings with color, material, finish, and tolerances (changing the color/s for your product is likely a must so it is differentiated).
- Only after this second step is done, can the investment in the tooling (into the tens of thousands of USD is probable) and the production unit cost be estimated.
Since you will have to invest in tooling, you can create your own shape, so you could have an industrial designer work on another shape that might be a better fit for your brand and even more differentiation.
It’s possible to create a new product that is based on something that’s already on the market – but it’s usually ethical to redevelop the product yourself before launching a new product, rather than going to the original manufacturer and working with them to make changes to the existing design (which may be designed by someone else and, therefore, proprietary IP).
Here at Sofeast, we are not lawyers. What we wrote above is based only on our understanding of the legal requirements. We do not present this information as a basis for you to make decisions, and we do not accept any liability if you do so. Consider consulting a lawyer before making legal decisions.
Are you designing, or developing a new product that will be manufactured in China?
Sofeast has created An Importer’s Guide to New Product Manufacturing in China for entrepreneurs, hardware startups, and SMEs which gives you advance warning about the 3 most common pitfalls that can catch you out, and the best practices that the ‘large companies’ follow that YOU can adopt for a successful project.
- The 3 deadly mistakes that will hurt your ability to manufacture a new product in China effectively
- Assessing if you’re China-ready
- How to define an informed strategy and a realistic plan
- How to structure your supply chain on a solid foundation
- How to set the right expectations from the start
- How to get the design and engineering right
Just hit the button below to get your copy: