Industry round table tackles copycat products

17th of March 2011
Industry round table tackles copycat products

Senior figures from the cleaning industry gathered in Amsterdam recently to discuss the increasingly widespread problem of ‘copycat’ products entering the European market. The meeting was hosted by European Cleaning Journal and Amsterdam RAI.

The subject of intellectual property (IP) violation has been highlighted by a number of the industry’s leading manufacturers, with many of them having experienced their products being copied by companies outside of Europe – most often in China. Legally, the issue is extremely complex, however there is a feeling among manufacturers that they would like to see a more proactive approach from exhibition organisers and trade associations.

It is through trade exhibitions that many counterfeit manufacturers attempt to enter new markets and the subject of preventing such companies from entering shows needs to be addressed – along with the wider situation that is developing. ECJ invited a representative group to meet, share their experiences and suggest possible ways of making some progress.

Offer assistance

Around the table were: Peter Hug of VDMA/EUnited; Markus Asch of Kärcher/EUnited; Keith Baker of ISSA; Toni D’Andrea of Afidamp; Matthew Dwelly and Geoff Sallows of Brightwell Dispensers; Giampaolo Ruffo of Comac Group; Dirk Salmon of Vermop Salmon; Heike Hemmer of Messe Berlin; Frans Veendorp of Numatic International; Rob den Hertog of Amsterdam RAI; and Chris Godman and Michelle Marshall of ECJ.

IP lawyer Marc de Kemp of Houthoff Buruma began by giving an overview of the legal position of both exhibitors and exhibition organisers when infringements take place at a trade show. It’s clear that, while exhibition companies could perhaps do more to offer assistance and advice, they cannot actually take action against an offending exhibitor – only the holder of the IP rights can do that.

“The legal side of the matter is one thing,” was Markus Asch’s response. “But the exhibition organiser has a responsibility to lay down rules.”

Better co-operation

With three exhibition organisers represented around the table (ISSA/INTERCLEAN, Pulire and CMS), it was indeed agreed there could be a greater degree of co-operation between them in supporting manufacturers encountering problems, and in preventing offending companies from exhibiting counterfeit products at European shows.

After sharing their own company’s experiences of IP infringement, the group focused on possible action the cleaning sector can take as a whole. The consensus was that European companies must protect themselves properly through IP rights, otherwise innovations simply become a commodity. Building brands and the additional services around the product is crucial. End users and distributors in turn must be made aware of the pitfalls of purchasing tools and machines not made by the original manufacturer.

It was agreed the show organisers at the meeting would continue their dialogue with a view to taking some decisive action as a group. From the comments made by manufacturers and trade associations represented, there is a real desire for the industry to act as a whole on this issue and speak with one united voice. 

“This is not just about what’s happening today, we must look to the future and how this situation will inevitably escalate if we do not take action now,” Markus Asch concluded.

• Read a full report of the meeting

Read the background to the discussion, ECJ's original report on IP theft


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