Groupon began rapidly growing as the poster child for group buying some eighteen months ago. And much like we saw with the proliferation of Twitter clones, we began to see Groupon clones spring up around the world.
Riding on the coat tails of others is nothing new. It’s how some companies conduct business.
We’ve seen this with Facebook. Once they grokked what Twitter was doing they implemented their own newsfeed system. Once they saw the benefits of Foursquare check-ins they installed this feature as well. In fact, they are now touting themselves as a social commerce business too, which means they’ll be competing against Groupon.
However, directly acquiring intellectual property in one country that mirrors another company’s IP is questionable conduct. And when Australians purportedly do this it’s unAustralian.
Andrew Mason, Groupon’s CEO has posted his views on why his company is not operating in Australia yet and in it there are some disturbing allegations that paint the Australian enterepreneurial community in a bad light:
One particular clone in Australia called Scoopon, created by the brothers Gabby and Hezi Leibovitch, has been making life difficult for us. Scoopon went a little further than just starting their Groupon clone – they actually purchased the Groupon.com.au domain name, took the company name Groupon Pty Limited, and tried to register the Groupon trademark (filing for the trademark just seven days before us) in Australia.
The way we see things, this is a classic case of domain squatting – an unfortunate reality of the Internet business. As Groupon became internationally known, opportunistic domain squatters around the world started to buy local Groupon domain names, thinking that we’d eventually be forced to buy them at an insane price. In fact, we tried to do just that, reluctantly offering Gabby and Hezi Leibovich about $286,000 for the Groupon.com.au domain and trademark—an offer they accepted. But now they’ve changed their minds, and we believe that they’ll only sell us the domain and trademark if we’re willing to buy the entire Scoopon business from them. Left with no other options, we’ve filed a lawsuit against Scoopon, claiming that their Groupon trademark was filed in bad faith (amongst other things).
I’m not going to comment on the veracity of Andrew’s views, as this is a matter for the courts.
However, such conduct by whomever is to be derided in the strongest possible terms. Australians are innovators, we have the mental capacity, the cultural agility and the ability to create incredible leaps in technology, in business and in creating meaningful things that progress humanity. We don’t need to copy what others do – that’s just unAustralian!