Maybe imitation isn’t the best form of flattery? Simon Bühler, the man behind the boutique carbon cycling accessories brand CarbonWorks, has accused Topeak, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cycling accessories, of replicating a design he registered eight years ago for its latest Feza Cage Tubular Carbon R10.
After road.cc reviewed the minimalist and very, very light Feza R10 this week, with the product receiving a 9/10 score, Bühler reached out to road.cc (and commented under the review itself) to claim that the Taiwanese manufacturer had copied the design he came up with.
Bühler said: “I invented this cage design in 2015. In the year 2022 Topeak began making and selling copies of the cage, identical to the original.”
Bühler told road.cc that he came up with the design of ‘Bottlecage’ while he was serving in the German Armed Forces in 2015 after being inspired by nature. He said: “It was a cold and snowy winter in Bavaria and we had to walk many kilometres through the forest near Hammelburg/Würzburg.
“In this situation it came to my mind to make a light and new bottle cage, which has the same bionic design as the trees and plants in the forest. A round and hollow structure can be found in many grasses and plants. Making an integral connection to the tubes and so on... the idea was born.”
After a few months, Bühler completed the first prototype, based on which he got a design patent for in Germany. From then, he worked on making the product better, and even presented it at the annual Eurobike show.
Finally as Bühler finished his service and was about to start focusing on his small company based around this bottle cage, he heard rumours that Topeak was using his design and planning to present it at Eurobike in Frankfurt.
In what could be described as a David vs Goliath scenario, Bühler hired a lawyer to take on Topeak: "At first, they offered to pay for a licence, but then the next day they threatened to file for cancellation of my patent."
Bühler's patent document, dated 11 May 2015
Bühler said that after many costly months, Topeak told him that it was going to make a new and completely different design called V15; however, in Bühler's opinion, the promised revamp to the V15 has simply taken the form of his brainchild again.
“I had new hope, but now it seems that they are circulating their old design again,” added Bühler.
“I hope you can understand how important this is to me and three of my staff. We are definitely too small to take on a big player like Topeak. A lot of money and time that I would have spent on new inventions has been put into this battle, but hope is fading.”
Bühler also said that not only is Topeak using his design, but that it also copied the surface layer on the carbon to protect it from scratches. Topeak also appears to use similar imagery and advice from Bottlecage’s manual on its own R10 manual, claims Bühler.
CarbonWorks' and Topeak's manuals for their bottle cages
Bottlecage is the flagship product of CarbonWorks, which also produces bike mounts for mobile devices. The company says on its website that the cage is a “masterpiece of lightweight construction”, weighing in at just 8 grams, and is “perfect for everyday use and still incredibly light”, and is available to buy from £79.
On the other hand, Topeak’s Feza Cage Tubular Carbon R10 comes in at 12 grams and is priced competitively at £59.99. Our review noted that “it holds bottles very well and there's very little movement even over rougher surfaces”.
However, readers, along with Bühler himself, were quick to comment about the uncanny similarities between the two. MatzeLoCal wrote: “Oh wow, it seems Topeak took a a very close look at carbonworks bottle cage… not a very kind move from Topeak”.
Dadams7378 commented: “It's a blatant copy. I know that CarbonWorks are concerned this will possibly put them out of business, as though expensive, its still a lot less than the CW cage. Cheap Ali Express copies that don't really work are one thing, but this will be at least as 'good', plus cheaper. Not very ethical as you say.”
Topeak has been contacted for comment.
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