“Brand and product piracy is not something that is limited to China or South East Europe,” points out Ingrid Bichelmeir-Böhn, leader of Schaeffler’s global brand protection team. “It also takes place right on our doorstep.
“The German and European markets are no longer flooded with just counterfeit luxury and consumer goods,” she adds. “There has also been an increase in counterfeit safety-critical industrial products, such as rolling bearings.”
The fake bearings were crushed in a press at a metal recycling company in Schweinfurt, Germany. The press broke the bearings up into small, unusable pieces. Big bearings, with outer diameters larger than 1m, were destroyed using a blowtorch.
The spindle, needle, roller and ball bearings scrapped during the operation were part of a much larger seizure of counterfeit products, most of which were disposed of locally.
Worldwide, Schaeffler is pursuing the counterfeiting of rolling bearings and the distribution of these products, in some cases leading to prosecutions. Not only is there a threat of claims made under civil law for “cease and desist” orders, damages and the destruction of counterfeit products, but there is also a threat of criminal prosecutions, which could lead to fines and imprisonment.
The economic losses caused by counterfeit products are difficult to gauge. As well as lost sales and damage to the bearing-maker’s image, the manufacturers are having to spend substantial sums on investigating, confiscating and disposing of the counterfeit bearings.
Schaeffler says that the damage caused by fake bearings can be more costly than the price of genuine bearings. It cites the case of a Swiss customer who complained that a counterfeit cylindrical rolling bearing was fitted during the repair of one of its machines. Despite regular maintenance, the bearings were running hot running after just six months. Although the customer recognised this in good time, the repairs cost around €17,000, far exceeding the value of the bearings.