Progressive gave Plastics News pictures it said were taken in the Threeup booth that showed counterfeit products carrying the Progressive name and logo.
Shenzhen Threeup General Manager Pan Shengfeng said her company did not manufacture the products, and was only distributing them. The show was the first time the small company displayed the products, she said.
Pan said she did not know which company manufactured the counterfeit products, and speaking through a company translator, said the 10-person firm, which is based in Shenzhen, will not sell the products in the future and will become more familiar with legal requirements.
Starkey, however, said he found it “hard to believe” that Threeup would not know what company manufactured the products for sale in its booth, and was skeptical that it would not know about Progressive's Chinese patents.
A page in a Threeup catalogue distributed at Chinaplas looks like the Progressive catalog page, but with patent numbers removed, he said.
“There's no way they're not aware of our [patent] protection,” Starkey said.
The U.S. executive said the action against Threeup is the latest skirmish in a long-running fight against violations of both trademarks and patents the company has in China.
Chinaplas is the first time the company has filed a complaint at a trade show in the country, but he said they've taken other action for the past eight years, with mixed results.
“There's been countless violators for numerous products and we've spent a lot of time and resources on cease and desist letters and actions within their plants, but when it's all said and done, all we've really done is slow it down slightly,” he said.
The company has “not really been able to halt an infringing practice like you could in the rest of the world,” he said.
Progressive said it did have some success at the German Euromold trade show, filing a complaint there five years ago after it found a Chinese company exhibiting infringing products.
During that show, Euromold organizers also forced the Chinese firm to remove the infringing products from its booth, Starkey said.
At Chinaplas, he said he was satisfied with the show's response but expected more problems with Threeup.
“Maybe we've gotten their attention but just hiding one of several products for a couple of days won't be the end of this,” Starkey said. “What we'll have to do is fight for the numerous products that they are violating our Chinese patents on.”
He said Progressive believes there are three to five manufacturers of counterfeit Progressive products in China, and “countless” distributors.
There's a lot of lost potential business, he said.
“It's significant,” Starkey said. “We have no official figures but our distributor in China says that the counterfeits might be 80 percent of the market share, where the Progressive-developed product is 20 percent.”
Starkey said Progressive has worked hard over the years to get large manufacturers and brand owners to specify its products in molds, and that's what the counterfeiters are trying to tap into.
“These are products that have taken a lot of development, a lot to get specified,” he said. “But what could be purchased by the OEM suppliers is a copy with our name on it. We test these copies and they are incredibly inferior.
“The damage is more than just the loss of the sale of the component,” he said. “It could jeopardize the specification.”
He said Progressive is making more noise now partly because it's starting to see some counterfeiting firms beginning to market that they have newer, more sophisticated Progressive products, like a mold monitoring system that provide more detailed information about conditions inside the mold.
“We've got an entire mold monitoring platform that we've released in the last four years and our concern is we're starting to see inklings of that product copied,” he said.