In March 2008, the Association of German Machine Builders (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbauer) complained of the notorious Chinese product piracy: “More than half of the German machine builders discover illegal replicas at exhibitions. Three quarters of these replicas come from China. Unfortunately, China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 has not improved the legal protection of intellectual property rights of foreign firms. The resulting loss of German mechanical engineering is about seven billions Euros per year.
Now roll back the clock.
In 1897, the periodical American Machinist observed: “In going through the shops of a prominent German machine-tool builder who has been in the United States and got a good many ideas there from, as well bought a good line of the best standard machines from which to copy or vary, in the production of its own line, I notice that every solitary American machine, whether from Providence, New Haven, or Cincinnati, had had the name chipped off and the place painted over.”
Prof. Dr. Jochen Streb in his article ` Catching-up and Falling Behind. Knowledge Spillover from American to German Machine Tool Makers' brings these snippets to make the point imitation is common in catching-up.