During the last 12 months I had the opportunity to feature the custom parts designed and cast by EMD (Esteves Motorycle Design). Rocker, primary and cam covers all conceived with a vintage vibe for XL, Evo, Twin Cam Harley-Davidson modern bikes. Original parts sold both in the US and Europe and now extremely popular on both continents. Of course, EMD expected that these cool parts would inspire (or much worse…) other parts manufacturers, China being usually the prime suspect…
Inspiration is one thing (nobody, no company can deny being inspired by what others are doing) But plagiarism, or the act of copying someone’s idea, creative work and passing it off as your own, is a much more serious matter. It’s true that in some countries it’s not necessarily illegal. In others it is illegal only when your ideas/products are protected by a patent, a very costly and time consuming commercial process, especially if protection from plagiarism is sought in several countries.
Last weekend I was contacted by EMD’s owner and industrial designer who provided me with a series of documents showing what looks like knockoffs of their original products being sold by Zodiac NL headquartered in the Netherlands, the oldest and one of Europe largest distributors of parts and accessories for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. EMD alleges that their research about the manufacturer of these knockoffs didn’t lead them to China, but to Poland where a company called “Chopper Garage USA” (as far as I know it’s not a US company, nor doing any business with the US) would cast the copies of their parts and sell them to Zodiac for distribution in Europe under the brand name of “The Factory”. (to hide the country of origin?) Just look at the parts and tell me if you think they are knockoffs or not.
Of course, Zodiac would have difficulties denying having knowledge of all the parts created and sold by EMD during these last 4 years since they are featured in catalogs, online, in ads and on many well known custom motorcycles (included the recent Jesse James’ Copper Bike.) Inside the cast copies featured here (Primary and Cam covers for XL Evo), are engraved signatures of both “The Factory” and of “Zodiac.” Packaging of these parts is in a wood box, not a common way to do it… but exactly the way EMD does it. Inside Zodiac’s catalog, the alleged copies are presented as “American Made”. I guess it sells better with bikers than “Made In Poland” if it’s effectively where they are produced. “American Made”, if not true, would also fall under the category of deceptive advertising and of unfair commercial practice , acts both illegal in the USA and Europe. I must add that EMD doesn’t seem to know for sure if the copies were commissioned by Zodiac or if Zodiac only bought the copies (knowing or not they were knockoffs?) from Chopper Garage USA.
Of ourse, EMD is responsible for not getting their designs patented. But because of cost and time involved, how many companies in the V-Twin industry are financially able to patent parts everywhere their parts can be sold? Very few, and among them even less decide to go through the multi-country red tape process. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, I don’t necessarily condemn inspiration. But I condemn plagiarism, production of knockoffs and presenting others work as yours without permission. It doesn’t matter for me if it’s legal or illegal or even unenforced in some countries. If you commit plagiarism, in my book you are a thief. The core issue has always been the lack of respect that some members of the motorcycle industry have for their competitors, especially when they are young companies with less financial means to defend their rights.
Due to EMD’s allegations, Zodiac International B.V. General Manager Ton Pels should provide an explanation to EMD and of course he can comment here in my website if he wants to deny EMD’s statements. In any case, independently of price, always order the parts from the original creator. You will probably get better quality and at the same time reward all those working hard at supporting our industry, taking risks, investing their own money, finding new ideas and creating new products for our riding pleasure.