Last week, Victor Major of Belgium-based Velocite Cycles claimed that Pinarello had infringed one of his design patents (a claim Pinarello denied). Whichever company is right in that particular dispute it's common knowledge that knock-offs plague the cycle industry – Pinarello is copied so frequently by Chinese counterfeiters that the knock-offs have a name, Chinarellos. The topic is covered in-depth in the 25,000-word Faking It series on BikeBiz. It's almost impossible to keep tabs on all of the knock-off specialists, but there could soon be an automated way of doing so.
US company TrademarkVision is developing software that will be able to take a 3D scan of, say, a distinctive TT frame shape, and then monitor whether it becomes available from non-official sources. TrademarkVision currently offers a 2D version of this software to monitor logo rip-offs. The company was founded by computer-vision researcher Sandra Mau, and uses "deep learning" and a type of Google reverse image search to spot copyright-infringing graphics.
Now, TrademarkVision say "we’re finalising the world’s first visual search engine for Industrial Designs/ Design Patents."
The search engine is currently in beta, with the company welcoming input from companies with design shapes they'd like to protect.
It's expected companies will be able to upload 3D designs and search websites offering similar looking products. There would also be a monitoring element. So, once a 3D design has been uploaded, the software will monitor the internet and inform the rights holder once a potentially infringing shape is spotted. This could revolutionise the way knock-offs are currently swatted in the bike industry.
For more on this issue, read "On your marques - what can bike manufacturers do to foil the fakers?"