The battle against cleaning machine copies

6th of March 2014
The battle against cleaning machine copies

German reporter Thomas Schulte-Marxloh brings news of the battle by the country’s manufacturers against cheap copies of its cleaning machines.

Demand determines supply. Customers today ask for economical, inexpensive products and want a supplier who can deliver high quality at a low price. This is true for the private sector as well as for the industrial or administrative sector. What looks like a bargain at first sight, however, could simply be a cheap copy of a well-known brand name. Copies are usually made of poor quality materials which result in malfunctions or damage.

Those customers  who believe that high-priced branded products are not worth the money will find out how wrong they are; those customers who believed they bought the ‘original’ will be severely disappointed and most likely not purchase a product from that brand again. In the end copycats mean a menace for both, producers and customers.

According to the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) product piracy costs the machinery industry around eight billion euros.

Kärcher recently won a law suit against the Chinese company Wenzhou Haibao - one of the first German companies which successfully initiated legal proceedings because of unfair competition. The trial court of Guangzhou had to decide whether Wenzhou Haibao copied the design of industrial high pressure cleaners in Kärcher’s compact class range. The court decision prohibits the product pirate from producing the respective machine; furthermore he has to provide a compensation payment to the German company.

This was not the first case of product piracy for Kärcher. Since 2005 the company  has been selling products in the Chinese market, for example the high pressure cleaners HD5/11, HD6/15 and HD7/18. Some years ago the first Haibao copies emerged with an almost identical appearance. As early as 2009 Haibao had a design registered which copied exactly Kärcher’s HD6/15 C.

Two years later this registration was declared void by law as Kärcher was able to prove that the HD6/15 C had been sold worldwide, including China, before Haibao’s design registration. Even Haibao’s objections at the Intermediate Court of Beijing and the Higher Court of Beijing were not successful. The design registration remained void.

Kärcher went on to announce forceful actions against violators of industrial property law and Haibao is not the only company in China that has been sued by Kärcher. Several law suits and formal administrative procedures are going on against producers of vacuum cleaners and
window cleaners.

The company also initiates legal action against individuals who abuse its registered trademark for other products or try to register similar names. Kärcher believes that the sentence of the court proves how forcefully and successfully violations of intellectual property can be prosecuted in China today.

“Our confidence in Chinese courts and administrations has been justified without exception”, says Hartmut Jenner, chairman of the management board of the Kärcher group. “They have protected our intellectual property to the full extent. In particular I am glad that all models of our series have been recognised as ‘well-established products’ which will make it easier for us to protect our rights in the future.”


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