New copycat claims by a Japanese air purifier maker reflect the kinds of challenges Xiaomi will face as its profile rises, slowing down its global expansion and potentially undermining its cool image.
The last couple of months have been a tough time for smartphone sensation Xiaomi, which is becoming a growing target of accusations that increasingly portray the company as China’s leading copycat. The latest such accusations are coming from a Japanese firm, which says its designs were ripped off for a new line of high-tech air purifiers that Xiaomi announced earlier this week. Those allegations come the same week that Xiaomi was penalised in India for illegally using patented technology from telecoms equipment giant Ericsson (Stockholm: ERICb), and two months after Xiaomi was slammed by a top Apple executive for being China’s copycat supreme.
According to the latest headlines, a Japanese company called Balmuda is saying its designs were copied in a new line of smart air purifiers announcedby Xiaomi. Balmuda’s accusations cover the external design of the devices, as well as their inner workings. Xiaomi earlier this week announced the air purifiers, which are part of its broader effort to build an ecosystem of Internet- and wifi-connected smart devices that can talk to each other and be controlled remotely by users over their smartphones.
Xiaomi has responded to the allegations with its own statement that, like previous replies, looks rather weak to me, saying its air purifiers have many different features from Balmuda’s. Anyone sensing deja vu in this case is probably thinking of the Apple incident back in October, or the more recent copycat allegations from Ericsson earlier this week.
But now that Xiaomi is venturing out into the bigger world, it’s being challenged by international peers, many of which may have valid IP infringement claims. I do expect that Xiaomi will eventually find solutions to many of the complaints, and the company won’t suffer too much from negative publicity. But these clashes could slow down its global expansion, and ultimately undermine its image as a cool Chinese gadget maker
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