There is a line that I heard several times, and that makes me cringe: “well, our product is difficult to manufacture, but the good side is that it will be hard to copy”.
I don’t give ANY value that that “good side”. If the product is successful and has some visibility, it better be REALLY hard to copy.
If all the China factories you contact tell you that your product is difficult to make, maybe you should re-engineer it. Or maybe you should make it in your home country, with a manufacturer that has the right equipment, the right flexibility, or the right know-how.
Here is what I just wrote on this subject to one of my clients:
Better have an easy product that you can switch from factory to factory, rather than a complex product that requires a mold and a lot of development work. It will give you more leverage over your suppliers, but it is not the only reason.
In most cases, copies will come from the very factory that manufactures for you. Samples and photos can find their way quickly around (in showrooms and online directories), especially as most [manufacturers of your product] are located in the same province.
That’s why you might want to keep working with the same factory, as long as their conditions and their quality are workable for you.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to ask for prices around, and to have a backup ready. I stronly advise it.
For further reading on this subject: the China Law Blog just posted an article entitled What To Do About Chinese Companies Taking Your IP?. And the latest CSIC’s “Sourcer” contains a long article describing the headache of a buyer dealing with a factory that does not even respect exclusivity contracts.