I'm not an attorney. Anyone who is seriously concerned about these matters should consult an experienced patent or copyright attorney as appropriate. Those things said ...
Many/most people seem to think that intellectual property protection laws were devised to allow creators to lock up their creations forever. This is not true. The reality is that the IP protection laws are intended to encourage the placement in the public domain of as many creations as possible as early as is feasible. The reasoning is as follows ...
An absence of IP laws is presumed to have a chilling effect on creators. After all, why should someone work hard to create something new that's of wide interest to the public if there's not going to be anything in it for the creator?
So to encourage as many people as possible to develop as much new stuff for the public as possible, the IP laws grant the developer (regular patent), industrial designer (design patent) or writer/artist (copyright) an exclusive -- but time limited -- monopoly on the use of his creations. After the expiration of the protection for a particular item, that item becomes public, not private, IP and anyone is free to use it without having to be licensed by the creator.
My Timex analog quartz wristwatch looks almost exactly like a certain Rolex mechanical model of sixty years ago. (Click on the link in my signature.) The "design patent" for Rolex's product -- the look-and-feel patent -- will have expired long ago. Thus what Timex did was and is perfectly legal since they are not claiming that the watch is a Rolex, only that it's a Timex.
And now the reason for the expiration of the monopoly -- the benefit to the public -- is clear. Without it I could never hope to legitimately own a watch of the beautiful design of the old Rolex model. However, I paid a price for that benefit -- I had to wait for many years to go by while those who could afford Rolexes got to enjoy the look as soon as they decided to buy.
Do you feel that that the kind of thing that Timex did is ethical (as opposed to illegal)?
If yes, why? If no, why not?
When is this kind of thing acceptable in your eyes? When isn't it?
Mind you, I'm not talking about the state of the law -- that's essentially settled. Instead I'm asking what watch collectors feel is acceptable in polite company, so to speak.