Vantage Point: Combating Counterfeit Parts

Aug. 7, 2008
Counterfeit goods, once largely confined to high-end luxury products, now have infiltrated the marketplace in virtually every industry.

Randy Bowen
Vice President, Distributor Relations
SKF USA Inc.
Kulpsville, Pa.

In our own backyard, manufacturers of premium bearings have detected counterfeits across the globe. And any target of such illegal activity quickly realizes the critical need for immediate action to protect brands and related intellectual property from infringement.

The stakes are too high for complacency.

When customers unknowingly purchase counterfeit components, risks multiply. Low-quality fakes sold under high-quality labels may be defective, unreliable, damage equipment, and cause serious accidents and injury.

The negative impact broadens as counterfeit trade cultivates a profile of respectability in the marketplace to cloak cheating. Users unwittingly and, perhaps, understandably, fall for the trap. In contrast to counterfeit luxury goods, bogus industrial products are typically sold at normal prices, in packaging virtually identical to the genuine variant, and from outlets that users perceive to be legitimate.

For the manufacturer, brands represent much more than marketing signposts. Well-established and highly nurtured brands serve as powerful tools to reinforce expectations of product quality and performance, and help design engineers specify proven, top-notch components. Ultimately, brands build identity, recognition, and reputation in an increasingly competitive world. When targeted by counterfeiters, the trust inherent in established brands takes a big hit and market share may erode.

Counterfeiters appear to have become more creative and escalated activity beyond making knockoffs in their efforts to deceive. For example, a packagingremarking process has been particularly problematic and quite difficult to detect. This method removes the markings from low-cost, low-quality brands and replaces it with premium-brand package markings. Technological advances have made it much easier to make this switch, which is almost impossible for nonexperts to recognize.

The overriding message is that all parties must be on-guard and ever vigilant.

SKF understands the realities and urgency for remedies. The negative impact from counterfeits can be far-reaching: Distributors and dealers in 140 countries handle our vast range of rolling bearings, seals, mechatronics, and other systems.

We’ve embarked on the mission to combat counterfeiting and protect our brands for the good of our customers and our business. We’re training employees to become experts about the counterfeit trade and recognize the need to reduce customer risk.

SKF has introduced a special anti-counterfeit marking enabling trained personnel to identify phony products in the field. And designated local employees have been equipped to take appropriate actions when they suspect counterfeits and actively assist law enforcement authorities in justly resolving issues.

With the number of counterfeit cases on the rise, we encourage product users and suppliers to report counterfeit products from any manufacturer. SKF takes all such reports seriously and is positioned to respond decisively.

And, acknowledging the difficulty in uncovering counterfeits with untrained eyes, customers can help safeguard product authenticity by purchasing through authorized distribution channels. Distributors have traditionally served as vital roads to market and today stand taller as “safe harbors” in the counterfeit storm.

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