Fake electronics at shows. What do the exhibition organisers say?

04-07-2017 | By Paul Whytock

Electroblog recently covered a couple of stories highlighting the menace of counterfeit electronic products and how one of the ways dishonest companies sell them is via industry exhibitions.

Confronting Counterfeit Electronics at Trade Shows

To talk about the exhibition problem I met up with Anke Odouli, exhibition director with the Munich-based exhibition company the Messe Muenchen.

Now this company organises some of the largest and most important international electronics shows. Two examples are Electronica and Productronica and Anke Odouli is director of Productronica and previously Electronica. This makes her the ideal person for me to ask about how the Messe Muenchen deals with counterfeit companies exhibiting at their shows.

We started the conversation by looking at a specific incidence of counterfeit criminality where German relay manufacturer Guner AG, a specialist in polarised latching relays for high currents up to 200A had just finished setting up its exhibition booth at last year’s Electronica event in Munich only to find the neighbouring exhibition booth operated by Chinese firm NCR Industrial-Clion Relay was showing plagiarised copies of the Guner relay design. The Munich Country Court confiscated the rogue components but the offending company was allowed to continue exhibiting at the show.

My first question was why wasn’t the offending company that had been found by the German court to be contravening German Patent Law removed from the show there and then by the organisers?

Anke Odouli explained that at present the Messe Muenchen does not have specific protocols or procedures for dealing with such a situation but said that her organisation does want to combat counterfeit products from entering exhibitions.

Challenges in Regulating Counterfeit Exhibitors

It is only fair to point out that in the Gruner case the Munich Country Court Bailiffs did remove all counterfeit products from the NCR Industrial-Clion Relay exhibition stand.

So what happens if this counterfeit company applies to exhibit at the 2018 Electronica Exhibition? Will they be prevented from doing so bearing in mind they are known law-breakers as far as the German legal system is concerned? Surely it must be in the interests of all the honest exhibiting companies and all the visitors to the show who want to source honestly and properly engineered products. And of course it certainly must be in the legal and moral interest of the Messe Muenchen not to do business with law-breaking counterfeit companies. Anke Odouli’s reaction to this was to admit that trying to check every company wanting to sign up as an exhibitor at a trade show as to whether they will exhibit counterfeit products is a mammoth task and not really practical.

In fairness to exhibition organisers there is one particular problem that does make it very hard for them to stop fake companies re-exhibiting at their shows. Counterfeiting companies very often close down when they run into trouble and then re-launch under a completely different name. This makes it extremely difficult for show organisers to identify them as having shown fake products at a previous show.

The Broader Impact of Counterfeiting on the Electronics Industry

And whereas it would be easy to criticise exhibition organisers for not have stringent controls to prevent counterfeiting companies from showing their products at exhibitions its worth remembering that even Government departments and law enforcement agencies, including the likes of the FBI, do not necessarily hunt down electronics counterfeit products to the same vigorous degree as they do fakes in the fashion, jewelry, film and cosmetics sectors.

Another aspect in the continuing failure to expose counterfeit electronics manufacturing operations is that a proportion of the blame actually lies with the electronics industry for failing to lobbying law enforcement organisations to anywhere near the same degree as other industries do.

But back to my meeting with the representatives of the Messe Muenchen. Anke Odouli concluded by saying she would let me have a statement on what her organisation the Messe Muenchen would be doing about fake exhibitors. Needless to say I will bring you news of that as soon as it arrives.


By Paul Whytock

Paul Whytock is Technology Correspondent for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over thirty years. Prior to entering journalism, he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.