Tackling counterfeit goods

As the pro AV market grows, so does its attractiveness to counterfeiters and grey-market distributors. Tim Kridel investigates how vendors are fighting back – and how integrators can too.

What do a Sennheiser mic and a Rolex watch have in common? They’re pricey marvels of engineering from coveted brands, which also is why they’re both targets of counterfeiters and grey-market dealers.

There’s plenty of research showing that the amount of counterfeit electronics is increasing worldwide, but none of it breaks out pro AV gear as a category. Even so, there’s ample anecdotal evidence that counterfeit projector lamps, mics and other pro products are increasingly common.

“I believe that counterfeiting has proliferated in our industry in recent years, in large part because modern technology has made it easier to produce counterfeits, the Internet has expanded the reach of those marketing and selling counterfeits and global shipping has become simpler and more cost-effective,” says Paul Applebaum, Shure executive vice president and general counsel. “In essence, the technical and economic barriers to making and selling counterfeits have come down over time as markets have become more global and transparent.”

Another indication that the problem is growing is the increasing number of pro AV vendors fighting back. One example is Sennheiser. In August 2012, it held a press conference in China – where vendors say most fakes originate – to show off its new anti-counterfeit program. Creating and maintaining an anti-counterfeit program isn’t a minor expense, so Sennheiser and others wouldn’t have them if the problem wasn’t a significant drag on their bottom line and brand reputation.

“In almost every market, we see grey imports and counterfeit products,” says Andreas Sennheiser, CEO. Some types of products are more subject to counterfeiting than others, such as lamps. Dave Bethell, CEO of UK-based distributor Just Lamps, saw so many counterfeits that he started a website – www.counterfeitlamps.com – to draw attention to the problem and provide buyers with tips for identifying fakes.

“There are certainly more counterfeits around now [versus] 18 months to two years ago, predominately in Asia,” Bethell says. “Some of that leaks into Europe. There’s an awful lot in Europe and the US now. One in 10 or one in 20 wouldn’t be far off the truth.”

In the full article Tim Kridel talks with manufacturers, distributors and research bodies including Mitsubishi, Etail Eye and Neutrik to find out why counterfeiting is on the rise, explore the grey market and find out what can be done to tackle the problems.

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