Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Play Real – Beware of counterfeit products
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Unfortunately, today’s global market place has seen imitation taken to a whole new level. I am referring to the flagrant counterfeiting of popular brands of consumer merchandise from hand bags, watches, pens, jeans and yes, guitar strings.
Initially, counterfeit versions of D’Addario branded music strings were easily identifiable. The packaging materials, print quality and the quality of the actual product were noticeably inferior. Today, with the help of high-resolution scanners and computer software, the counterfeiters have mastered the art and science of duplicating packaging. In many cases, our own quality control staff has to use high-power magnification to discern a fake from an authentic D’Addario string package.
Distinguishing between the fake and the real strings is another story. The quality of the counterfeit strings themselves has not improved appreciably. They are still primarily hand-wound strings on unsophisticated machinery, made by unskilled workers using inferior materials. This poses a serious threat to our brand equity and our loyal customers. Most of the counterfeit strings we have tested cannot even be tuned to pitch and do not have any of the quality attributes of a properly-designed and consistently-manufactured music string.
Counterfeit strings are now finding their way onto websites and now into legitimate music stores all over the world. Recently, we have found fake D’Addario string sets in the UK, Germany, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, Romania and many more. A recent survey of over 100 retail stores in four Chinese cities indicated that many shops had genuine D’Addario strings, but a majority also had counterfeit versions. It is almost impossible for the consumer to discern the difference by simply looking at the packaging.
In response to this threat, we have been working diligently on many fronts to combat this illegal and unethical activity.
1. We have hired investigators and lawyers to identify and raid manufacturers (primarily in The People’s Republic of China at this time).
2. We have raided three string producers that were caught with D’Addario and other popular brands of musical strings and packaging in various stages of manufacture. We will continue this investigation and enforcement approach.
3. We have been in active dialog with the U.S. Commerce Department, the State Department, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the International Trade Commission. Recently, the Senate Finance Committee requested that the ITC investigate China’s intellectual property infringement policies and make a report to Congress on the economical impact their lack of enforcement is having on the U.S. economy. I testified at a hearing for this investigation and illustrated the effects that the counterfeiting of our product is having on our company, particularly in our ability to create and maintain new job opportunities and grow our share of the domestic Chinese music string market.
4. In the summer of 2009, we began converting all guitar string product over to a new inner package that includes a unique serial number on each and every set of strings. After one year, a majority of the inventory on distributor and retailer shelves now has this new serial number technology. This number resides in an accessible database so that consumers, retailers, distributors and customs officials can actually go to www.daddario.com/playreal and determine if the set of strings they have in their hand has a legitimate ‘Play-Real’ serial number in our database.
5. We have begun a Play D’Addario/Play Real marketing campaign in selected markets to help raise awareness to the problem and to educate our users on how to identify fake D’Addario strings.
With over a dozen family members active in the management of our company, D’Addario has endeavored to set the bar for musical accessory quality. We pride ourselves on the consistency in quality that we build into the design of our products and the processes we use to manufacture them. We also stand behind our products and openly welcome our customers to return any D’Addario branded string or accessory they purchase that does not perform to their expectations.
In the past two, years we have seen an increase in the number of defective strings being returned that are in fact counterfeit product. In each case, we will replace defective strings at no cost to you (whether they are genuine or fake). We ask our customers to cooperate with us in tracking down the source of any counterfeit products we receive from them. This dialogue is a huge help to us and we encourage you to communicate with us if ever you have difficulty with any our products.
We also ask that you consider these points when making string purchases:
• Most counterfeiters supply their products online. If you see an unbelievably low price advertised for any of our products, there is a very good chance the products being offered are not genuine. Ask questions and report unusually advertised prices to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can investigate.
• All D’Addario products you may purchase online from a Chinese source at low prices are invariably counterfeit. It is virtually impossible for a legitimate importer or retailer of D’Addario strings in Asia to offer lower prices than are offered in your native market place. On most sites, such as eBay for instance, the country of origin for the sale is available to you. Remember, the unethical business people making counterfeit products have no issue with putting Made and Printed in USA on their product, even if it is not. Do not be fooled by the packaging.
• Look for the D’Addario Play-Real serial number printed on the inner corrosion protection bag for all our string sets. If there is a number on the set, go online and check to see if it is legitimate. Help us by informing us of any sets with serial numbers that are not legitimately coded into our database.
We are never going to completely purge the global market place of the unethical and illegal practice of counterfeiting, but together we can probably control this menace.
We appreciate your cooperation and consideration.