Understanding the Scope
Even today, there’s a common misconception that counterfeiting is a problem that only affects luxury goods like watches, cosmetics, or handbags. However, the truth of the matter is that today, there are counterfeits of virtually everything, especially machine components and parts. Antun Peakovic, Director, Intellectual Property Americas, Schaeffler Group USA Inc. North American Automotive Center explains that many end users tend to basically lull themselves into believing what they want to believe.
“Unfortunately, they tend to think, ‘We surely don’t have any of those – and anyway, I always buy from trustworthy sources with whom I have been working for years.’ However, sadly, this may prove to be wrong, which is a lesson that distributors who got caught up in large- scale cases of counterfeiting, in both the USA and Europe, have had to learn the hard way,” he says.
Why are counterfeit bearings such a problem?
“It is important to understand that bearings are safety components,” Peakovic says . “A counterfeit bearing can cause significant financial losses and also pose a risk to life and limb. Counterfeit bearings usually do not meet the quality requirements of genuine bearings from market leaders, such as those from Schaeffler with its brands INA and FAG.”
“To make it even more difficult, it is impossible to identify a counterfeit product simply because of a low price,” he adds. “We know of several cases in which the price of a counterfeit product corresponded to that of a genuine product. This means buyers get questionable quality at the same price as a genuine component. That is a very bad deal.”
Breaking the counterfeit chain takes full cooperation
Distributors: “Distributors vouch for the first-class quality of the products their customers purchase from them with their good name. This means that all distributors must also take product and trademark piracy very seriously,” Peakovic says. “In detail, this involves:
•Carefully selecting suppliers, so that a warranty claim can successfully be made if worse comes to worst.
•Carefully checking the actual origins of all imported goods. Experience shows that it’s no longer sufficient to simply ask for certificates or delivery notes – such documentation is also counterfeited.
•Contacting the bearing manufacturer directly when in doubt. Schaeffler for example can be contacted via email@example.com if there is any uncertainty about the authenticity of any bearings received.”
End Users: Peakovic can not emphasize enough, that to protect against counterfeit parts whether bearings or any parts, only purchase your components from trustworthy sources, such as authorized distributors.
“For our company, only authorized distributors can source genuine INA and FAG brand bearings directly from Schaeffler,” he says. “Also, carefully check all quotes. Particularly cheap sources often supply questionable goods. These range from very old bearings and bearings that have been incorrectly reconditioned, right up to counterfeit bearings. All these products have one thing in common – they cannot fulfill the quality requirements as any modern bearings can.”
“Finally, check all incoming goods very carefully. If you have a bearing in question, contact your bearing manufacturer directly. For Schaeffler, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do this immediately if the products you receive do not look or feel like the products you are familiar with. We cooperate with local law enforcement around the world,” he adds.
Bearing Manufacturers: All bearing manufacturers are making a stand against rampant counterfeiting of their products. In the case of Schaeffler, in 2004, the Schaeffler Executive Management Board set up a department to coordinate all global Schaeffler activities related to combating product and trademark piracy. For more information, please visit the World Bearing Association (WBA) awareness campaign at www.stopfakebearings.com.
“Legal proceedings range from raids at manufacturers’ prremises, investigations and legal actions against sales channels to preliminary injunctions. All manufacturers have some policy against product and trademark piracy. For Schaeffler protecting customers is, and will remain, our top priority,” Peakovic says.
Peakovic notes that Schaeffler has been examining suspicious components for several years – irrespective of the source of any request. “In return, if the parts concerned are counterfeit, we expect to receive all information about the origin of the parts and any background information the buyer has available. The industry can only successfully prevent the distribution of counterfeit bearings if it works together with all stakeholders involved.”
In conclusion, he adds that in addition to these legal and organizational steps, Schaeffler is involved in several associations that have made combating product and trademark piracy one of their objectives. “We also visit trade shows, conduct internet research and much more. This continuously improves our understanding of how the trade in counterfeit bearings works and how we can prevent counterfeit bearings from entering the market.”