Beheading the ‘norm’ in trademark infringement

Counterfeiting has been around for centuries.

It has, and as the world continues its march toward globalisation, will always be a problem. I recently saw a tv programme where an expert explained how Japanese samurai sword (known as a katana in this case) makers would chisel signatures (mei) on the tangs of a sword to ensure its origin of ownership. Owners would put their own unique versions of who, what, where and when underneath the intricately wrapped handles.

Things were a bit different back then though. In the case above, if you were caught counterfeiting the sword and copying the signature and or mark of the house where the sword was made, punishment was swift – you’d be beheaded.

In fact, the beheading would not stop there. The culprit’s entire family would be sought out and all would suffer a similar outcome.

Today, life is much more complicated for those who hold legitimate rights to the manufacture of products. Recently we saw Enerpac walk the talk and start legal proceedings against those that it sees are infringing on what it quite-rightly owns.

When at EMEX, a chat with Cigweld’s Ken Durbin reinforced the continual issue brands face today. It’s an epidemic according to Ken, in many industries and across many brands, and the legitimate owners are often forced to pour hundreds of thousands if not millions into protecting what they own.

You cannot help but feel for such brands. Companies sink huge money into building their brands. Masses into research and development… the list of expenses just goes on. And then someone piggy backs and makes replica type product that often breaks down, or worse, does injury, and then the bogus product swings again and lands one flush on the jaw by creating negativity toward the brand that has had blood, sweat and tears put into it.

All of these raise the final price of the product, creating an even wider gap between the real and the Mickey Mouse.

Should you come across any counterfeit product or product you feel infringes on the rights of property owners report it immediately to authorities, let the brand owner know what’s going on or even get in touch with me.

But the big thing is to not get involved at all. Buy through legitimate suppliers and resellers. Eliminate any risk.

More than two decades ago – as editor of a similar trade magazine – I wrote hundreds of column inches on the problem, and had all sorts of product pop up on my desk from dodgy-as power tools to crumbling Callaway golf clubs. It was the birth of China as a manufacturing facility, and as companies shifted manufacturing operations to those shores to reduce operational costs an increasing amount of problems began to occur. Products were copied, rightful ownerships ignored and there were many cases where even the legitimate product was coming out the front door while knock-offs were seeping out of the back.

Today, I feel it is everyone’s responsibility to tackle the problem. It’s become so big that brand owners need as much help as they can get.

I’m not asking for mass vigilante groups performing samurai-like slices through necks, just the realisation that the widespread effect of this problem impacts on everyone and in ways you don’t see but sure do feel. Counterfeit products depower entire industries.

And speaking of being depowering, the Government is in need of urgently addressing and delivering a secure energy supply to New Zealand’s energy-intensive heavy industry.

Policies to decarbonise the economy, such as ceasing the issuing of new exploration permits, need to be weighed in direct relation to where the baseload power is to come from for fueling smelter and/or steel works and the likes.

A commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 is one thing, but not at the expense of chopping off the head of heavy industry.

Balance is required – much like that of the finest samurai sword.