Schweinfurt, Germany – Shaeffler AG has destroyed 26 tons of counterfeit roller bearings marked with the INA and FAG brand. Their value is over 1 million euros (about C$1.4 million).
Rolling bearings of various types and sizes are conveyed by the gripper arm of an excavator into a scrap press with a loud crash. The bearings leave the press chopped and broken into pieces or so badly damaged that they are rendered unusable.
Large-size bearings with an outside diameter of more than one metre, which are even too big for the scrap press, are destroyed with a cutting torch. All these bearings were confiscated in raids. The objective of this operation is to make these bearings unusable.
After a spectacular operation in 2007, in which around 40 tons of counterfeit bearings were destroyed at the Schaeffler company site in Schweinfurt, and numerous other operations to destroy counterfeit goods worldwide, around 26 tons of counterfeit bearings were destroyed this time at the premises of Interseroh Franken Rohstoff GmbH in Schweinfurt. A large proportion of the counterfeit products originate from raids at bearing distributors in Europe, for example, in Italy and Great Britain. But some of the counterfeit bearings are also from Germany.
“Brand and product piracy is not a phenomenon that is limited to Asia or South East Europe. It also takes place right on our doorstep,” says Ingrid Bichelmeir-Böhn, leader of the Global Brand Protection Team at Schaeffler. “The German and European markets are no longer only flooded with counterfeit luxury or consumer goods, there is also an increase in counterfeit industrial products that are relevant to safety, such as rolling bearings”.
The spindle bearings, spherical roller bearings, ball bearings and needle roller bearings scrapped during this operation are only part of the confiscated counterfeit products. The majority were disposed of locally under the supervision of the relevant national authorities.
The counterfeiting of rolling bearings and the distribution of these products are consistently pursued by Schaeffler worldwide and may lead to prosecution in some cases. Not only is there the threat of claims under civil law for cease and desist orders, damages and the submission of counterfeit products for destruction, but also the threat of prosecution under criminal law in conjunction with a fine and/or imprisonment if necessary. The economic losses caused by counterfeit products are very difficult to estimate. In addition to lost sales proceeds and the damage to the company’s image due to low-quality goods, high costs are incurred for the investigation, confiscation and correct disposal of bearings.
Not only are the companies that manufacture brand name products and conduct complex research, development and quality assurance damaged, but also the companies who install counterfeit parts and their customers.
A current case from Switzerland proves once again that significant damage can be caused by the failure of a rolling bearing when it is a safety-relevant part in machines and facilities. Due to a customer complaint by a Swiss company, it became apparent that a counterfeit cylindrical roller bearing was fitted during the repair of a machine. Hot running occurred after only six months, despite regular maintenance. This was noticed in good time by the customer, however, it still resulted in repair costs of around 17,000 euros, which exceeded the value of the bearing many times.
Associations such as the World Bearing Association (www.stopfakebearings.com), the German Anti-Counterfeiting Association (www.markenpiraterie-apm.de) and the Quality Brands Protection Committee (www.qbpc.org.cn) ensure that the public is informed about the risks caused by the use of counterfeit industrial products. These organizations also work in conjunction with the authorities with the objective of creating the legal and organizational prerequisites to effectively fight counterfeit products and protect manufacturers and customers as a result.
Shaeffler recommends that, in general, it is always best to purchase goods from a source that is 100% reliable, i.e. from manufacturers and authorized distributors. In the case of any uncertainty that distributors and customers may experience during incoming goods inspections, Bichelmeir-Böhn and her team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.