Last year, a German tourist traveling through China spotted a set of nested salt and pepper shakers: The slender cylinder of pepper rested perfectly in the center of the doughnut-shaped salt holder. It was a sleek design. It was also, he recognized, an almost exact copy of the successful Two-in-One salt-and-pepper set made by Geislingen (Germany)-based WMF, and he sent it to the company.
As a result, the maker of the imitation—Shantou Lian Plastic Products of Guangdong, China—is one of 13 winners of the Plagiarius Award, a dubious honor bestowed on makers and distributors of the "best" (which is to say the most flagrant) product knockoffs. The awards were handed out Feb. 8 at Ambiente, the world's largest consumer goods trade fair. Given annually by the German organization Aktion Plagiarius since 1977, the awards aim to publicly shame those involved in product piracy and to inform designers, consumers, politicians, and others of its harmful effects.