Fighting Back at the Fakes
The February 1st issue of Industry Week features the story of NEMA member, Schneider Electric's battle to rid the domestic marketplace of counterfeit Square D circuit breakers. NEMA's website
documents several of the episodes in this fight. The battle started
two years ago with a call from US Customs to Schneider, reporting that
an individual had arrived at San Francisco Airport on a flight from
China with several suitcases full of circuit breakers. Customs shipped
a sample to Schneider, who determined that the circuit breakers were
counterfeit. These circuit breakers, after all, are not made in China.
But the investigation of the sample revealed more: they were
defective. A standard short circuit test applied to the
sample produced an explosion at a panelboard that is documented in a
photo on Schneider's website. No wonder Schneider is fighting back.
The Industry Week article reports that
Schneider, with the cooperation of Chinese authorities, finally raided
a source of these defective counterfeit breakers. Schneider had
suspected the particular company as a source of the counterfeit
breakers. The Chinese source advertised look-alike circuit breakers on
alibaba.com, and had even stolen nearly word-for-word from Schneider's
website text describing the circuit breakers for its alibaba.com
listing. This company had carefully airbrushed the trademarks off the
photos of the product to avoid counterfeiting claims. The company's
address on the alibaba.com web page turned out to be false, thus making
the source difficult to find. A breakthrough linking the suspected
source to a US purchaser finally came during discovery in a US
lawsuit. The Chinese source even sent the US purchaser a photo of its
employees packaging the Square D circuit breakers, which is shown in
the Industry Week article.
Some lessons to share from this battle:
2. Monitor the Internet for offers of
suspcious product. This is one way foreign knock-off manufacturers
reach out to find export customers. Internet surveillance might also
detect domestic distribution of counterfeit product.
3. Examine government import records for suspicous product.
4. Use discovery tools in civil
litigation to uncover as much information about the source and further
resale of counterfeit product.
5. Put competent investigative
resources to work to find the source of the product, and if you need
help with overseas enforcement, consult with the US Embassy and Foreign Commercial Service in the country as well as trade association resources.
01-16-2008 10:20 AM