Canadian pipe equipment producer Corma Inc. has opened a factory in Shanghai to serve China's growing infrastructure market and to export.
The 20,000-square-foot facility, with space for an assembly operation, technical support, sales and spare parts, filled its first order in February; its second, to Thailand, will be shipped in March, said Stefan Lupke, executive vice president of the Vaughan, Ontario-based firm.
Corma said it will continue to serve its North American and European customers from its existing sites on those continents, and it sees the China plant as serving the Asian market, at least for now. But Lupke said the China plant eventually will export the company's corrugated pipe production equipment to other parts of the world, as it meets global quality standards.
The $2 million Shanghai plant started operating at the end of 2005 with 12 employees.
The lower-cost production the site provides and the company's aggressive pursuit of patent suits in Chinese courts will help Corma get back market share it lost when Chinese firms started copying Corma designs illegally, according to Lupke.
``These guys will copy your equipment down to the paint color,'' he said.
Lupke said Corma won its third patent suit last week, and has filed at least six more against Chinese firms. The company had sold 30-40 large machines in China before others started copying its work and its sales dropped, he said.
While many Western firms complain about weak enforcement of intellectual property laws, Corma said it's had success because it has held many of its Chinese patents for at least 15 years, and it has defended them aggressively.
The company has collected some money in its patent victories, which it has won in courts in larger cities, where it sees a better chance of success, he said.
Lupke said China's ascension to the World Trade Organization helped with patent litigation: ``Now that they've joined the WTO, there has to be transparency.''
The company established production in China because the country's rapid growth and worker migration to its cities means strong demand for infrastructure projects, and its markets are in their infancy, compared with more mature markets in North America, he said.