Creative Piracy and the “Huge Mountain”

Brand counterfeiting is a vast and robust global industry that churns out endless volumes of phony Rolex watches, Vuitton bags and Dior accessories, not to mention more sinister fakes of everything from pharmaceuticals to electronics and airplane parts. I find these fakes tedious (counterfeit aircraft parts are another matter — downright dangerous). I dislike mega-brands to begin with, and the fakes (like phony Rolexes) are either truly inferior copies not worth the price, or they are faithful copies of something intrinsically worthless, like Vuitton bags. I wonder — does it bother anyone at Louis Vuitton that the “cheap” knock-offs often seem every bit as good as the real thing?

But above all, I dislike knock-offs for their utter lack of originality. If only the pirates were as creative in product design as they are in business hustle, they might produce something new and wonderful.

But some fakes are just too good to ignore, like the North Face vest knock-off I encountered in an open air market in Seoul. North Face has been a hot brand in Asia for many years now, so not surprisingly, the brand is copied like crazy. But this entrepreneur came up with an improvement: the label “North Face” is a bit puzzling for non-English speakers; what does “face” have to do with the outdoors?

The solution? Keep the North Face logo but change the name to “The Huge Mountain.” It is not enough to keep the lawyers or the cops away, but it is a charmingly innocent reminder that the lingua franca of the Global Village is badly accented broken English.