German customs officials (‘Zoll’) seized fewer suspected counterfeit items at this year’s Paperworld trade show in Frankfurt.
The number of booths where articles were seized was 31 this year, significantly down from 41 last year and 51 in 2011.
However, the amount collected by the Zoll in fines was up this year by almost 50% to €36,000 ($49,000), partly due to stricter rules introduced recently which now mean that €500 can be collected directly at the show for first-time offenders. Fines for repeat offenders are significantly higher than this.
Stefan Pranzas, who heads the Zoll team at Paperworld, told OPI that it is difficult to judge whether the fall in the number of seizures this year indicates success against counterfeiting or if the counterfeiters are just becoming smarter.
Most of the Zoll raids took place in the Hall 10 area of Paperworld – where manufacturers from Asia are located – and involved the writing instruments category. However, a couple of stands were visited in Hall 3.1 (at RemanExpo), including that of Chinese compatibles firm Ninestar where Zoll officers confiscated a label cassette which allegedly infringed on DYMO patents.
The manufacturer, however, denied that the product in question infringed on any patents.
“As Ninestar is now both an aftermarket producer of imaging supplies and an OEM, we show much respect towards patented technologies,” the company said in a statement. “Our label cassette is a newly introduced product that has not yet been released to the market. Furthermore, we had analysed DYMO’s patents for this product and the technologies we used on the R&D of this model are all proprietary.”
One booth which was not visited by the Zoll this year was that of Chinese shredder manufacturer New United, which is currently involved in litigation with Fellowes.
In 2012, the Zoll seized two shredders from the New United stand which Fellowes alleged infringed on the US firm’s patents. At Paperworld this year, New United’s Randy Graves showed OPI documents from the German courts which confirmed that these shredders could be displayed at the show. Graves questioned Fellowes’ follow-up in Germany after last year’s product seizures and said that New United is now taking legal action against the US manufacturer regarding this matter.
New United is also the subject of a US International Trade Commission (ITC) investigation instigated by Fellowes (see below). Graves declined to comment on the specifics of this case, but said he was confident that the ITC ruling would vindicate New United.
ITC opens Fellowes investigation
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has opened an investigation following a complaint by Fellowes.
Fellowes filed the complaint in December as part of its long-running dispute with Zhou Licheng – the man who controlled 50% of its former Chinese joint venture business, Jinsen – and several other related parties. After Jinsen failed at the end of 2010, Zhou formed a company called New United as a joint venture with Elite Business Machines, a firm owned by a former Jinsen employee.
Fellowes claims that New United is selling shredders in the US which infringe on Fellowes’ patents and which are made by using moulds and tools that are the property of Fellowes. The US firm is also alleging that New United has tried to sell around 70,000 finished Fellowes’ branded shredders which were located at the Jinsen factory and ready to be shipped at the time the dispute broke out in 2010.
Seven respondents are named in the Fellowes complaint, including Zhou himself and Randy Graves, the former Jinsen Operations Manager who is now Vice Board Chairman at New United.
Speaking to OPI at Paperworld, Graves said that the expected timeline to finalise the ITC case was 16-18 months.