Duplicate products flood market

DUBAI — Duplicate products covering almost the entire gamut of human necessities including foodstuff, cosmetics, electrical equipment, garments, automobile spare parts, cigarettes, batteries and even medicines besides pirated versions of computer software and films have flooded the UAE market for some time now.

By Mohsen Rashid

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Published: Thu 30 Jun 2005, 10:39 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:47 PM

But the government efforts to rein in this unhealthy market trend has begun to yield fruits as is evident from the 100-odd cases filed in courts for infringement of trade mark rights or violation of Intellectual Property Rights.

These substandard products, which don’t conform with the minimum health and environment norms, have crept into the shelves of almost all the shops, save for the big ones which have steadfastly resisted this imitation invasion to keep their reputation intact.

Many in the business and industry believe that the consumers themselves are to blame for the massive infiltration of these products into genuine markets because they are drawn by the price difference, little realising that the fake stuff can only do them more harm than good. This is not merely in terms of product satisfaction, but also in terms of causing health hazards.

Such illicit market activity, besides taking the consumer for a ride while lining the pockets of those dealing in fake products, has a serious impact on the country’s economy since it affects the established and genuine companies which would otherwise have contributed handsomely to the growth.

Fighting against all odds, the Dubai Police decided to take the bull by its horns when it set up an exclusive unit to combat economic crimes. More importantly, it helped establish the Arabian Anti-piracy Alliance (AAA) in 2001 with Dubai as the regional headquarters.

“The AAA also has offices in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and deals with more than 20 international companies holding popular trade marks covering various essential products,” said AAA Chief Executive Officer Scott Butler.

Primarily, AAA’s objective is to protect the interests and rights of owners of trade marks in cases where their trade brands were imitated or their Intellectual Property Rights were infringed, said Butler, revealing that the companies which had entered into an agreement with AAA included those dealing in foodstuff, cigarettes, batteries, satellite films, games and shampoos. Electrical equipment would soon be added to the list with several companies on the verge of signing an agreement with AAA.

AAA, which functions in close cooperation with governmental bodies like Customs, Municipality, Police and Economic Department, has been backed in all its endeavours to check such malpractice in the market by General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, who has shown keen interest in combating this evil, said Butler.

He was, however, forthcoming in his remarks on the situation in other GCC countries. “The matter is different since no cooperation is extended by the police or other bodies concerned to AAA offices in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” he said.

Pointing out that no penalty had so far been levied against trade mark piracy cases in these countries, he said even in cases of crackdown on warehouses storing fake products, the role of the police was limited to keeping order and security between those raiding the place and those accused of possessing duplicate items.

“The authorities in these countries do not place priority on promulgation of a law to protect Intellectual Property Rights, and consequently, they do not play any role in ferreting out fake goods,” he said.

According to Issa Obaid Al Gharbi, a businessman in the field of contracting and tourism, the difference between genuine and fake products is crystal clear, and customers should select what is best for them.

Citing the example of auto spare parts stores, he said customers are openly given the choice of genuine and fake parts, the latter often described as ‘commercial,’ and are informed about the difference in prices. Genuine parts invariably cost almost the double of fake parts, prompting the customer to opt for the cheaper version, little realising that it would not do any good to his vehicle besides putting his life at risk.

Again, Al Gharbi cited the example of wheel frames, stating that the cheaper versions melt as a result of high temperatures which could lead to a serious accident. The original product, according to Al Gharbi, is made of material which can withstand high temperatures and are safer for use compared to the ‘commercial’ frames. Same was the case with tyres. The fake ones, though costing half of the original tyres price, wears off fast and can prove to be harmful to the customer.

Al Gharbi said Traffic Departments refuse renewal of registration of a car if they detect fake spare parts in the vehicle. “It is strange that when the Traffic Departments are concerned about the lives of vehicle-users, the latter themselves are not bothered,” he said, adding that sometimes, the Traffic Department renews registrations even if some vehicles have spare parts since it is difficult for them to always detect use of fake spare parts.

The businessman favoured a pro-active role being played by the media to curb the menace of duplicates in the market by highlighting the dangers of using them, be it car tyres, foodstuff or perfumes.

Abdullah bin Hamed, another businessman who owns a chain of stores for clothing, sportswear and cosmetics, said there was hardly any product which had escaped imitation. It was, however, not very difficult to separate grain from chaff, he said, pointing out that if the price difference of a product was huge in two different shops, it was more likely that the cheaper one is an imitation.

“A little variation in prices of products is acceptable as a form of competition between outlets, but when it is huge, the cheaper product can’t be original,” he said, adding that one must look for details in the product since even a misspelt information can be a give away for the imitation.

Hamed urged stringent measures against those dealing in fake products, not merely in the form of fines, but pulling down the shutters of the shop since only such action would act as a deterrent. Besides, shops dealing in fake products should be given wide publicity in the media along with the photographs of the owners, he added.

On the reasons that encourage imitation products to flood the market, Eng Mohammed Ali Juma, an interior designer, said it is often the greed of exclusive dealers of popular brands responsible for the trend. With virtual monopoly in the market for their products, they tend to push their margins higher, and this leads to imitations landing on the shelves of several shops, he said, adding that only concerted efforts by consumer protection cells, which are non-existent here, can solve this problem in coordination with the authorities concerned.

So, the next time you buy a bottle of perfume knowing that it is not original, remember the smell lasts only a few seconds. And the next time you buy a wheel frame or tyre, make sure its original since it may well turn out to be your wheel of fortune. It could save your life.

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