Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery


It was meant to be just a quiet evening drink after a very hectic day with an Infomill client.  The club had a typical American sports bar theme.  Nothing too unusual about that but this particular bar was the only token of western ‘culture’ in this remote factory town in South Korea.  Considering I’d been immersed in an intense Korean work assignment for the last few days, the bar provided a much needed degree of familiarity.

The large television screen above the bar was showing a program about the technology used in Formula 1 motor racing.  I sipped my drink and watched with interest. Infomill had completed a system the previous year for one of the Formula 1 teams that managed car parts which were being constantly changed during practice sessions and provided a real-time link from the pit-lane garage to their factory.  It was, if I say so myself, a cool system and a tremendous accolade being part of such a high-profile industry.

It became obvious that the satellite channel I was watching was sponsored by a large technology company who were showing what they did in Formula 1.  They had a lot of clever technologies to show off that I found impressive.  Then the screen zoomed into an extremely familiar-looking parts system in a  pit-lane garage.

I nearly fell off my bar stool when I recognized the system on the screen was in fact from Infomill!  There I was, in the middle of (almost) nowhere, watching our system being shown to the world as coming from someone else.  I was, to put it mildly, somewhat incensed that this global technology company had the audacity to do that.  I vowed that I would take action as soon as the job in Korea wrapped up and I returned home to the UK.

A few days later I was back in the office and made the call to the Formula 1 team to recount my story.  It turned out that the technology company in question was paying a lot of money to provide its technology to that team and perhaps it would be unhelpful to take the matter any further.  I was, as I was reminded gently, working in a small company and the large global technology organisation in question was, um, much much bigger!

I contemplated the difficult position I was in.  Could I risk possible litigation against a massive company for passing off our product as theirs?  How would the Formula 1 team in question feel about that?

So, in the end I decided not to take the matter any further.  With the passage of time I have been able to tell this tale countless times and remind myself that there is an element of flattery here. After all, while Infomill is not the biggest company in the world, we’ve obviously got something special enough for others to want to claim our technology as theirs.