proliferation of counterfeit approval marks can enable unsafe
or otherwise deficient products to gain widespread access
to the North American market. This can place consumers at
direct risk of exposure to unsafe or deficient products and
increase retailers’ risk of legal action and unfavorable
publicity should they unwittingly supply those products. Widespread
counterfeiting can also jeopardize public confidence in products
bearing legitimate approval marks, posing a significant threat
to leading national brands and the profits of the companies
issue: June 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine
The Open Door
The Threat of Counterfeiting
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by Manny Gratz, manager, Special Investigations and
Anti-Counterfeiting, CSA Group
Widespread use of counterfeit marks undermines the entire North American system of standards, testing, and certification that has been put in place to protect the interests of retailers, regulators, specifiers, product manufacturers, as well as consumers.
trademarked approval marks are among the most valuable brand
assets of testing laboratories. Counterfeit marks pose a very
real threat to the acceptance of these legitimate marks. Reduced
acceptance represents a significant loss of brand equity and
could place a testing laboratory at a competitive disadvantage,
ultimately resulting in significant loss of business.
threat of counterfeiting is not limited to product approval
marks. The appearance of counterfeit products in North America
has increased dramatically over recent years. These products
are often unsafe, compete unfairly with legitimate business,
and can damage legitimate manufacturers’ reputations.
IACC (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, www.iacc.org),
a watchdog over this area, estimates that trademark counterfeiting
robs the U.S. of more than U.S. $200 billion annually in product
sales, distribution, and lost jobs. In 2001, U.S. Customs
seized and destroyed more than $4 million worth of counterfeit
electrical equipment alone.
IACC reports the majority of counterfeit products come from
Asia, primarily China, and that Eastern Europe has also become
a significant source. The manufacture and distribution of
counterfeit products has been linked to organized crime.
range of potentially unsafe products could have counterfeit
approval marks. Counterfeit approval marks have been found
on electrical products built using substandard materials and
exhibiting compromised electrical spacing - both of which
are potential shock and fire hazards. Recently, circuit breakers
bearing counterfeit approval marks were found in a hospital
panel board supplying power to life-support equipment.
Buys Counterfeit Products?
could unwittingly purchase a counterfeit product or a product
bearing counterfeit approval marks. These are the real victims
of counterfeiting because they believe they are purchasing
or specifying a legitimate product and are paying for the
value they associate with that product.
these people may be disappointed in the performance, reliability,
and durability of the product, the real threat posed by many
counterfeit products is safety. If the product has not been
tested and certified to meet applicable standards and does
not bear legitimate approval marks, it could pose a serious
fire, shock, or other hazard to the user and represent a serious
liability risk to retailers, distributors, or others who may
have supplied the product.
a Counterfeit Approval Mark
the appearance of the mark itself is an obvious indication
that it is counterfeit. CSA marks, for example, have distinctive
graphic features that are often not accurately reproduced
by counterfeiters. One common difference is in the proportion
of the letters in the marks. Marks on products that deviate
from these official designs should be viewed with suspicion.
of products and their packaging can sometimes indicate a counterfeit.
For example, unclear printing on products, labels, or packaging
or spelling mistakes can be an indication that the product
is counterfeit and may have counterfeit approval marks. A
discrepancy between the contents of the product package and
the description on the package may also be a sign of counterfeiting.
Missing product information or other package enclosures are
another reason to be suspicious.
lower pricing can be another sign that a product is counterfeit.
And, availability of a product through an unauthorized distributor
can indicate that the product is not legitimate.
Action is Called For
threat posed by counterfeit approval marks calls for decisive
detection and enforcement action to defend the interests of
businesses - and consumers - who rely on approval
marks for assurance that products or components meet applicable
standards. Leading manufacturers should consider initiating
aggressive, "No Tolerance" programs to detect,
expose, and punish any unauthorized use of its registered
trademarks or product designs.