Chapter 28 – Legal Issues at Trade Fairs

Without going into too much detail, I want to share with you some information about legal issues at Trade Fairs.

Patent and Copyright Infringements

You may have found booths that had been closed down and sealed and you thought it strange. At all international Trade Fairs it is a common practice on the first day for lawyers or other legal representatives from manufacturers of famous brand names to swarm the exhibition hall and check for the following details:

  • Copyright infringements
  • Patent infringements
  • Has the factory obtained the required licenses; for instance for DVD players
  • Has the factory paid the necessary licenses; for instance for MP3 players

This is especially the case in Europe and the United States, any copyright or patent infringement will be dealt with. Even if the supplier showed a product at their booth (trading company) that was not manufactured by them, they will be held responsible.

Usually the products will be confiscated and the exhibitor will receive a court order and has to pay a fine. In severe cases like a DVD player w/o a valid license, the booth will immediately be closed and the manufacturer could even face arrest if there is a risk that he will try to escape.

I just want to draw your attention to this to make you sensitive to copyright or patent infringements. Chinese companies sometimes have a different understanding of copyright or patent laws.

They will buy an attractive branded product from overseas and copy it by adding several minor modifications. Now they believe it is their own design. They will even register these products at the Beijing Patent Registry as their own design.

If you ask them during your meetings whether it is their own creation, they will tell you it is and they have even registered it.

Don’t Make This Mistake

However, their registration means nothing if you import these products to your home country. In all probability you will be caught and have to pay severe penalties or compensation payments to the brand name owner.

We are not talking about small change here. Sometimes this can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It can even happen long after you have imported the products and forgotten about them. It is common practice that the brand name owners wait some time before pursuing their legal cases because in the case of patent infringements more compensation money can be retrieved that way.

Do yourself a favor and avoid manufacturers that practice this kind of business for your own protection.

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