Impudent product piracy at the neighbouring booth

February 16, 2017 // By Patrick Spreitzer
According to a study published by accountants Ernst & Young in 2015, the damage for German companies caused by plagiarism amounts to 56 billion Euros. Most of the participating companies reported that they are affected by product piracy, mainly from Asian countries.

Particularly affected are medium sized companies that have managed to reach and to secure a leading market position by investing in research and development over many, many years. Due to the increasing demand for relays worldwide, manufacturers of switching components are particularly affected by plagiarism, such as for example Gruner AG, the world market leader for polarized latching relays for high currents up to 200A.

This company repeatedly had to experience plagiarists presenting their products at the same exhibitions, only a few booths away. At last year's electronica, Gruner was able clearly identify the counterfeit products and immediately took legal steps at the show: the company’s lawyer managed to sue out a cease and desist order at court “Landgericht München I”.

Per the study published by Ernst & Young, approximately 72 percent of all counterfeit products are still coming from China. In many cases, they are only spotted at exhibitions - manufacturers suddenly see their own products at foreign exhibition booths.

This is what happened to German manufacturer Gruner at electronica in Munich on November 8, 2016 when it spotted several products at a neighbouring booth that looked quite similar to their own products.

We could remove the plastic cover from one sample and what we saw inside was a 1:1 copy of one of our patent-protected inventions used in all our high current relays.

The original Gruner relay type  721 for comparison:
switching mechanics and design of contact springs,
for example, are the same. Source: Gruner AG.

One of the samples, model  NRL709ED-12D,
after opening it could be clearly identified as 1:1 copy
of a Gruner relay and was taken off the market
immediately at the exhibition. Source: Gruner AG.

On the following day, the bailiff of “Landgericht Munich I” searched the booth of NCR Industrial-Clion Relay Co., Ltd and withdrew the respective relay from the market.

A partial success only, as there were another four or five relays that Gruner suspected to be copies as well, due to apparent resemblance – but NCR was allowed to continue exhibiting these relays.

There was no way to convince the bailiff that the products would not be damaged by removing the plastic cover to check the design, but at least the plagiarist’s exhibition booth was blocked for approximately 30 minutes and prospective buyers turned away.