Counterfeit parts

Suggestions for avoiding them and their consequences

All of these efforts have paid off, says Handschuh of AASA, who points to a report from the Bush Administration’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice that show significant improvements in measures of IP enforcement increase during the last five years of the Administration. The Department of Homeland security reported seizures totaling $200 million in Fiscal Year 2007, a 27 percent increase over 2006. The Department of Justice reported a 33 percent increase of criminal cases involving IPR violations from 2006 to 2008.

The Obama Administration also has affirmed its commitment to fighting IPR violations and counterfeiting, Handschuh notes. “Our association’s staff in Washington, DC, is working with the Administration to continue the fight against counterfeiting.”

In addition, AASA and MEMA have spearheaded efforts to raise industry awareness of counterfeiting at trade shows throughout the world. These industry gatherings present a prime opportunity for the global motor vehicle parts industry to speak out against counterfeiting.

“We have instituted proactive anti-counterfeiting efforts in conjunction with the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX), held annually in Las Vegas, and PAACE Automechanika, held annually in Mexico City,” says Handschuh. “Activities include hosting an annual Webinar on protecting intellectual property rights at the show; onsite security; and legal teams to deal quickly and efficiently with infringers and violations.”

AAIA co-owns AAPEX and as such partners with AASA on the anti-counterfeiting efforts at the event.

AASA and MEMA collaborate with CLEPA, the European association of automotive suppliers and JAPIA (Japanese Auto Parts Industry Association) in anti-counterfeiting activities at Automechanika Frankfurt (Germany), Automechanika Shanghai (China) and other international shows and exhibits.


Technological advances, such as computers, copiers and scanners, have contributed to counterfeiters’ sophistication, particularly in counterfeiting of labels and packaging.

“While technology has helped counterfeiters, the flip side of that coin is the technologically-enhanced response of law enforcement in deterring counterfeiting and the benefits of elegant supply chain management systems in the private sectors,” says AAIA’s Kadrich. “There’s also high-tech product markings and readers used to ensure legitimate shipments.

“It is a long way from 1981, when our association waged the anti-counterfeiting fight with self-correcting typewriters and not even a fax machine.“

Often, identifying counterfeit, fake and knockoff parts is difficult because they are designed to look like almost perfect replicas of the genuine product and are packaged, labeled and distributed as genuine replacement parts. Some steps being taken by U.S. suppliers to spot such products, observes Kadrich, are recording their registered trademarks with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and continually providing this information to help CBP officers stop counterfeit parts from entering the U.S. market.

“Advances in computer technology have broadened the capabilities of even the least tech-savvy user, but the same programs which benefit businesses and casual users also are available to criminals,” says Jack Cameron, vice president, programs and member services, AASA, and group executive of the MEMA Brand Protection Council. “These programs can be used to duplicate logos, packaging and other trade materials.

“In addition, advances in manufacturing technology allow unscrupulous manufacturers in certain countries to ‘reverse engineer’ legitimate parts and components, and create illegal, unsafe fake parts,” he points out.


While no parts are immune, counterfeited parts tend to be the most frequently replaced parts - such as brake pads, oil filters, spark plugs, etc., and are often safety-related, says Cameron. (See Table 1 - Most Commonly Counterfeited Parts, Components & Accessories.)

Using these counterfeit parts can have serious consequences, says Cameron. Here are just a few, as noted by vehicle testing experts:
Counterfeit oil filters can cause sudden engine failure.

Counterfeit suspension parts and wheels break when made of substandard material.

Vehicle hoods without crumple zones penetrate the passenger compartment.

Counterfeit brake pads, made of grass clippings and saw dust, have caused fatal accidents.

Counterfeit windshields without safety shatterproof glass cause injury or death.

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