TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Oct. 9, 2:20 p.m. ET) — Taiwanese auxiliary equipment maker Shini Group has stepped up its campaign against what it says are mainland Chinese companies who copy its design and equipment — including masquerading as Shini at trade shows and wearing company clothing that mimic the Taiwanese firm.
Shini, based in Taipei, Taiwan, has been aggressive in court cases in China, and claims it has won some important battles there. It recently took its arguments more globally, issuing English statements in late July in response to what an executive said was more aggressive worldwide marketing by some copycat firms.
In an interview at the Taipei Plas trade show, held Sept. 21-25 in Taipei, Overseas Business and Marketing Director Alan Chen said the economic stakes are substantial.
Chen estimated that in China alone, 10-20 percent of the market for auxiliary equipment for plastics processing violates some intellectual property or trademark of Shini, Conair Group, Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH or another global brand.
“They just keep coming up and coming up,” said Chen. “You stop one case, and five to 10 cases pop up. That is what I find most frustrating.”
Chen said court cases have helped tame the worst of the problems, such as competitors falsely claiming in advertisements and at trade shows that they were a branch of Shini or authorized to manufacture Shini equipment.
That has caused problems with customers, who buy the counterfeit equipment thinking it is from Shini and then when it breaks down, they call the Taiwanese firm to come and repair it.
“Many customers came back to us with service claims that we are not responsible for,” Chen said in an interview at Shini's booth. “In lots of cases my service guys would go in and open up the machine, and say, ‘This is not my machine.' The customer says, ‘What do you mean, it's Shini.'
“This troubles us,” Chen said. “It's our reputation.”
In two of the cases, Shini said the infringing firms had previously been agents for the Taiwanese firm but then began selling fake products with Shini labels or labels with a very similar name. One former agent copied Shini's catalog, website and publicity material, the company said.
“What's more, their staffs also wore the same Shini suits and used Shini business card[s],” the company said. “They used [a] quotation and sales contract by impersonating a branch company of Shini.”
Shini also said that some of the copycat firms also falsely claimed to be a “well-known brand” in Guangdong province, a government-issued designation that Shini was awarded in 2008 and that some Chinese companies feature prominently in their marketing.
Shini has a substantial production base and technology center in Dongguan, Guangdong province, in addition to factories elsewhere in China and in India.
The company is currently building a new manufacturing plant in the western Chinese city of Chongqing, which will be its sixth factory when it opens in 2014, and has become one of China's largest makers of auxiliary equipment for plastics.
It's not trying to stop competitors from manufacturing, just from infringing on Shini intellectual property, Chen said: “I am totally OK with them manufacturing products – just don't tell people you are Shini.”
The company put a list of firms on its website that it says may falsely claim to be Shini, and included their websites. It said customers should only use the Shini website, www.shini.com, to verify company representation.
Chen said that while Shini will continue to defend itself in court, it also realizes it too has to keep innovating and can't rely entirely on court cases.
“The best way is to move on, just keep ahead of them with new ideas, new technology, a new image,” Chen said. “It also forces you to develop your own style. You want to be the benchmark.”