May 2010 Electrical Apparatus

May 2010 Electrical Apparatus

This is a summary of the Electrical Apparatus May 2010 featured technical article,  by Richard L. Nailen, P.E.    

Markets around the world, notably in North America, Europe, and Australia, are being flooded with counterfeit electrical goods made in Asia and elsewhere. Products include power cords, circuit breakers, surge protectors, fuses, relays, lamp ballasts, and batteries. Items may be defective, substandard, or identified by fake listing marks. Users of these products are at risk of fire or injury.

In the U.S. alone during the most recent fiscal year, $23 million worth of such counterfeits were seized by Customs agents–an increase of 43% over the previous year. Although the Chinese government is trying to control the export of such material, the World Trade Organization contends that its efforts are inadequate.

In response, product users in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. have joined together in organizations to publicize the problem and warn potential importers. Product listing agencies, such as Underwriters Laboratories, have devised new labeling practices to make counterfeiting more difficult.

In 2007, the U.S., European Union, and others undertook a joint program to negotiate an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to strengthen enforcement of intellectual property rights, to deal with improper use of product labels and listing marks as well as imitation of products themselves. Agreement was not expected before 2010. In the U.S., legislation approved in 2008 (the Intellectual Property Rights Protection Act) established rules and organizational structures to increase judicial power to deal with illegal products and their manufacture, with criminal penalties for violation.

In 2009, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association issued a lengthy report outlining ways for domestic suppliers to better protect their branded products from imitation. Among the recommended measures: hidden identifiers, holographic images, and special label inks.

Despite all the steps taken thus far, global traffic in counterfeit goods (electrical and other) continues to grow up to 25% annually. Historically ill-equipped to devise protective measures, legitimate suppliers are hiring anti-counterfeiting consulting firms to advise them. In January 2007, 18 such providers joined in the International Authentication Association. Many other sources of help were listed in NEMA’s 2009 report.

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