The threat of counterfeit and fraudulent items to the valve industry is not new.
My first article on the topic dates from 2012 and I used that opportunity to speak to several reputable valve manufacturers about the difficulty in protecting their intellectual property, market share, profits and reputation.
Looking at the bigger picture, the very real danger to human life, the environment and whole communities is potentially enormous when counterfeit and fraudulent items make their way into the supply chain.
In the intervening years the methods that counterfeiters use to peddle their wares have become increasingly sophisticated and brazen.
From manufacturers to distributors to end users, every link in the supply chain must be on the alert. Recent developments would seem to indicate that putting aside commercial competitiveness in the name of presenting a united front is a strong tactic.
Fight Fake Products
At the ADIPEC trade show in Abu Dhabi last year a bold initiative was launched called Fight Fake Products.
This initiative saw a large group of producers of fittings, flanges and pipes join together to develop a joint plan of action to withstand unfair competition, especially trademark infringement and forgery.
In an official press event in March 2016, Mr Carl Farina, Managing Director of Friedrich Geldbach stated: "This is the very first time that so many key suppliers are raising their voices as one, the first time that counterfeiting and forgery evidence is brought so openly and so strongly directly to the public. The main goal of creating the Fight Fake Products Initiative is to act as a strong, coherent voice for European industry in the fight against the manufacture, distribution and sale of counterfeited products."
In a strongly worded statement the group announced "Our battle is to make it clear to all that this practice is a violation of the law".
"We believe that only good quality, high standards and guarantees on product origin can achieve a solid future in the oil & gas industry. However, we are also well aware that another parallel market exists and proliferates, in which quality is replaced by a search for the cheapest product."
In an attempt to combine quality and low cost, many companies and traders rely on illegal practices, with the clear goal of distributing large quantities of the cheapest product, only at first glance approved-branded, on the market. It is widespread practice to buy stock of products from other countries, before importing, marking and certifying them (or letting them be marked and certified directly at origin) with an approved manufacturer’s name."
"The policy of the initiative in this regard is extremely clear: we will fight these illegal actions with all possible means. Our battle is to make it clear to all that this practice is a violation of the law."
Protecting the supply chain
One of the most disturbing revelations was that many counterfeit products are being produced in the Middle East and are falsely – and illegally- supplied to that market. The threat of a catastrophic accident in the oil and gas industry is very real.
While Fight Fake Products is an initiative set up by manufacturers of fittings, flanges and pipes, this issue is of equal relevance to the valve industry which is facing an uphill battel against counterfeit valve parts every day.
Bearing, seals, gaskets…no part is safe from unscrupulous copiers whose only interest is a quick profit and whose business dealings are incredibly difficult for any individual reputable company to stop.
The FFP initiative should serve as an inspiration to legitimate manufacturers to stand together against this global problem.