What the Dickens is going on?
This unusual expression may well have been founded following English novelist Charles Dickens’ first visit to the USA back in 1842.
Dickens, who was just 30 at the time, was treated like a modern rock star but the trip soon turned sour. Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers had already made him the most famous writer in the world. However, Dickens became incensed at how Americans were plagiarising his works. Americans were reading his works for free in pirated editions.
In 1842, there were no international copyright laws in America. Today we would say the issue was over intellectual property rights. Dickens realised his popularity in the US could substantially increase his income if his American fans paid to read his works. “I am the greatest loser alive by the present law,” he complained.
Dickens argued that copyright law would help American writers as well. However, the American press turned on Dickens, labelling him as a vulgar money-grabber. The truth is many countries, including the United States, have ignored intellectual property rights in the past. US patent attorney Steve Adkins reminded me, however, that when a nation sees the merit and value in new ideas and inventions, they seek to preserve them, and pass laws accordingly.
And this is true for China too who only registered their first patent in 1985. Since that time, China has dominated the world in the number of patents, trademarks and industrial design filings. In case you missed it, China is rapidly morphing from a copier of products to an innovator and leader, and of course, wants to protect its patents and trademarks.
Aftermarket printer cartridges, for example, are not just illegal copies any more. Yes, the illegal copies still exist, however, there are a large, growing number of non-infringing new-built cartridges being produced. Many companies now own their own intellectual property rights on their own cartridge designs that allegedly do not infringe. The printer OEMs must be wondering where the battle lines for market share are going to be fought in the future.
So, ‘what the dickens’ will happen next?
David Gibbons has been a school principal, a managing director of his own business, a director of communication for a large global organisation, a TV news host, a publisher of magazines and online content. He is currently a director of RT Media based in Zhuhai, China—a position he has held since 2011. He can be seen on the inTouch TV News broadcasts and interviews and is also the publisher of the RT ImagingWorld magazine for the global imaging supplies industry.
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