The automotive sector is no stranger to counterfeiting, but the Equip Auto international trade show in Paris, France will strive to ban it from the exhibition, through a no-tolerance approach. Equip Auto, the worldwide crossroads for all automobile activity, will be held for six days in October. Two thousand exhibitors from all over the globe are expected at this show, where they will market millions of auto parts and components in a 200,000 m exhibition space. While the sector is still developing in industrialized nations, the essence of its growth potential comes from emerging markets, which will call for industrial mobilisation towards these new horizons, as well as technology transfers. This is not a new phenomenon: since its first steps in the early 20th century, the automotive sector has been a forerunner of globalisation.
Technology and skills transfers
The process tends to expand geographically, with multiple production sites and skills sites all over the planet. Emerging countries cannot carry out their socio-economic development without integrating the automobile an essential tool in their logistic strategies and as a key factor to its industrial growth. Inevitably, technology transfers and multiple skills and production sites increase the risks for counterfeiting. Products with a considerable profit potential once R&D costs, patents, licences and quality requirements are out of the way run a high risk, with the added (fraudulent) bonus of the market renown of a stolen brand name.
A very fine line between competition and counterfeit
Counterfeits range across a broad spectrum and are often much more subtle than flat out copies of manufacturers’ identities. In an economic system driven by competition, where “patent hijacking” (as opposed to fraudulent use of patents) is common practice, there is a fine line between counterfeit products and simply competitive products. Also, while the trends point to globalised legislation and frameworks for international trade, they are merely trends which, in these fields, are far from being universal. What we consider to be an illegal counterfeit may be tolerated or even encouraged and considered politically correct elsewhere. No one organising an exhibition that brings together 2000 exhibitors from the four corners of the globe can guarantee the absence of these controversial items among the millions of products marketed in a 200,000 m2 exhibition space.
Immediate withdrawal for proven counterfeits
Equip Auto, a global-scale exhibition, does not aim to judge or discriminate against its exhibitors on just as controversial criteria. Instead, it has all exhibitors sign a formal commitment that they will not exhibit counterfeit products. Equip Auto does not have the technical and legal expertise to control, evaluate, or arbitrate disputes which may arise between exhibitors concerning interpretations of free market competition. It does, however, commit to do everything in its capacity to ensure that justice will prevail. If any instance of counterfeiting is proven, the exhibitor will be asked to immediately withdraw the item in question from the exhibit. A justice officer would be asked to intervene for possible legal action. The stand could be closed with extremely short notice. Counterfeiting existed long before Equip Auto, and the exhibition understands its capability: it does not have the power to eradicate it in one fell swoop. That said, Equip Auto is committed to pull out all stops, with no laxness and no complacency, so that the public authorities may immediately halt any exhibition of counterfeit products at the show. In addition, the French Vehicle Equipment Industries Federation (FIEV), one of the major players in this Exhibition, will host the various public authorities and organisations that fight against intellectual property violations, the principal threat to auto parts makers.