Isn't it time we had an international patent law that would stop this kind of bullshit from happening?
How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web - Businessweek
Bamarang is the creation of Oliver, Marc, and Alexander Samwer, a trio of German brothers who have a wildly successful business model: Find a promising Internet business, in the U.S., and clone it internationally. Since starting their first dot-clone in 1999, a German version of EBay (EBAY), they’ve duplicated Airbnb, eHarmony, Pinterest, and other high-profile businesses. In total, they’ve launched more than 100 companies. Their Zappos (AMZN) clone, Zalando, now dominates six European markets and is estimated to be worth $1 billion by Financial Times Deutschland. Through their venture capital firm, the European Founders Fund, they also invested in European knockoffs of Facebook and YouTube (GOOG), which sold for $112 million and $36 million, respectively.
The Samwers’ base of operations is a startup accelerator in Berlin called Rocket Internet. Rocket launches companies, hires staff, and provides marketing, design, search engine optimization, and day-to-day management until the startup can fend for itself. Rocket’s executives won’t disclose revenue, but a former high-level employee estimates the company is worth at least $1 billion. Oliver Samwer, the middle brother and de facto head of the operation, says the firm has offices in at least 20 countries and has created 20,000 jobs over the years. “I’m in love with startups,” says Oliver, who, like his siblings, rarely talks to the press. He elaborated in an e-mail: “The power of Rocket is really this huge galaxy of stars.”
Groupon (GRPN) got cloned by the Samwers two years ago, and the results were expensive for the daily-deal site. In November 2008 Groupon went live in Chicago and soon became one of the fastest-growing Internet businesses ever. In January 2010 the Samwers launched a knockoff called Citydeal. Within five months it was the top deal-of-the-day site in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Turkey. Groupon could have fought Citydeal in the marketplace. It also could have filed an intellectual property lawsuit, though the chances of winning would have been slim. Companies can’t be patented, and trademarks apply only within the countries where they’re registered. Perhaps taking the path of least resistance, Groupon in May 2010 bought its German clone for 14 percent of Groupon’s shares. (Rocket now owns 6 percent of Groupon, a stake worth about $1 billion.)
The Samwers are revered for putting Berlin’s startup scene on the map and despised for sticking Germany with a reputation as the copycat capital of Europe. Not that the brothers take offense at the label. “There are pioneering entrepreneurs and execution entrepreneurs, and maybe we belong more to the execution entrepreneurs,” says Oliver, who speaks at a rapid clip, frequently punctuating thoughts with a rhetorical “ja?”