Reverse Engineering, Learning, and Innovation
This background reading looks at reverse engineering in the context of piracy and knock-offs in emerging markets like China. It first considers legal aspects of reverse engineering in strong property rights regimes like the United States as a way of unpacking the legal issues. It considers the importance of tacit or unexposed knowledge, and whether modularizing a system facilitates the recovery of design intent. Finally we look at the role of reverse engineering in the development of capabilities and how it enhances a firm's absorptive capabilities. It is intended to be used as a background reading for the case "From Imitation to Innovation: Zongshen Industrial Group," HBS No. 610-057.