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Investigation of ink-cartridge counterfeiters

(IP investigation)


Our client, an American manufacturer of inkjet and laser printers, was growing increasingly concerned at the number of counterfeit versions of its inkjet cartridges which were available worldwide.  It believed that many of these counterfeits were being manufactured in China. 


It also wanted more information about manufacturers of compatible cartridges (those which work in our client’s printers, but do not carry our client’s brand name): it needed to know who was making the cartridges; who was making vital high-tech components; how big the leading manufacturers were; what their key markets were; and to what extent they were infringing on the client’s patents.


Posing as a potential customer, Sinogie initially conducted an extensive survey of manufacturers of remanufactured (recycled) cartridges; compatible cartridges; and counterfeit cartridges.  We made initial contacts with target manufacturers by e-mail or phone, and then visited the target companies’ offices and factories. 


We identified which companies we suspected were counterfeiting, and which might be infringing our client’s patents.  We also identified the sources of key components for compatible and counterfeit cartridges, and identified the largest cartridge manufacturers in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan.  We provided the client with a wide range of information on specific manufacturers, including information on their manufacturing facilities, manufacturing processes, sales and marketing practices, target markets, possible patent and trademark infringements, and other relevant issues, and provided the client with samples.


In the course of our investigation, we identified a number of companies which were involved in the manufacture of counterfeit cartridges. 


Our experiences with one of these companies are set out below. 


In this case, after we had identified the target company, the client invited two more of the world’s leading cartridge manufacturers to join it, and the three companies worked with Sinogie to close down the counterfeiter.   These companies chose to join the project as the target had been flooding markets in South-East Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe with copies of all three of our clients’ products. 


The local authorities are generally unable to take action against a counterfeiter unless proof of the counterfeiting can be found.  Typically, the easiest way to ensure this is to ensure that counterfeit products are on the premises before the authorities conduct a raid. 


Posing as a potential customer, a Sinogie representative arranged to purchase several hundred counterfeit cartridges from the target company.  Working with Chinese lawyers, we then informed the local Administration of Industry and Commerce (“AIC”) of the situation.   We worked with the AIC to arrange for AIC officials to conduct a raid and seize the products.  


When Sinogie’s representative went to collect the cartridges, AIC officials followed him to a warehouse where the counterfeit products were being stored.  AIC officials then raided the warehouse, seized the counterfeit products, and took the counterfeiters into custody.   Following a full AIC investigation, the counterfeiters’ company was closed down; their manufacturing equipment was seized, and the counterfeiters themselves were given custodial sentences.


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