There are various reasons for filing a claim against a factory but you will mainly be faced with:
- Late or incomplete deliveries
- Major quality issues
- Copyright violations
- Patent infringements
- Non-compliance with laws of the destination countries
Let me give you more information about the likely background of these claims:
- Late or Incomplete Deliveries claims can easily be avoided if your company exercises the necessary due diligence to monitor the production progress at the factory. If your factory was unable to produce the ordered quantity on time or could only supply part of it on time, you should have known this weeks ahead of time. It should not come as a surprise to you at the last minute. If this happens, it is likely your company’s control systems either are not yet in place or need refinement.
- Major Quality Issues are another claim that could probably have been avoided if your QC department and your inspection company had done their homework correctly. Of course, sometimes there are hidden defects that can be only discovered after products reach a certain manufacturing operation (properly operating technical products for instance). But these are the exceptions and I will give you some real examples along with other cases in chapter 14.
- Copyright Violations are a worst case scenario and in general very costly. Since it is not a quality issue there are only a few precautions that you can take but believe me, they will not always prevent these claims. I have already pointed out that Chinese manufacturers have a different understanding of copyrights and from their point of view, everything looks alright. Unfortunately, it is still very common for factories to take famous brand name products and apply marginal changes in the hope that the design will be sufficiently altered to avoid copyright infringement. Most often, the design changes are not sufficient. My only advice to you is to carefully check the copyright or patent in your home country and do not rely on statements made by the factory, regardless of how convincing they may seem. You may want to contact a patent lawyer if you are in doubt. If you have the slightest doubt that your product(s) might violate copyrights, it is best to drop the products so you can enjoy a much better night’s sleep.
- Patent Infringements are another worse case scenario and can be even more costly than copyright violations. Patent infringements are sometimes very difficult to determine because they are at times only subtle modifications applied that can make a big difference. Trying to bypass existing patents without being an expert would be the same as playing with fire. You will be burned and will lose a lot of money on top of it. It is inevitable that you seek the help of an experienced patent attorney to avoid the many pit falls here. On the other hand, these lawyers are very expensive and you may wonder whether your effort to import a risky product (that’s what bypassing existing patents is about) is worth all your time and money. The key point here again, is that you cannot simply trust what your supplier tells you. He is not familiar with the patent laws in your country and frankly, he simply does not care. That means you are all alone and you are the one that will be held fully responsible if you import a doubtful product. The real life examples in chapter 14 include cases that clearly prove that you really cannot trust your supplier, even if you have had a long-term business relationship with him.
- Non-compliance with the Laws of the Destination Countries is also a serious situation but different from points 3 and 4. You may be lucky and can prove to the authorities that their findings were wrong. If a problem does exist, it is very important that you can prove the problem did not happen through your negligence; meaning that you took all necessary precautions. What makes the case more serious is that you will be dealing with government authorities who are very powerful and can enforce a nationwide sales stop or even a recall of all distributed products. If that happens you will lose a lot of money and even more serious, your reputation as a high quality importer. Usually the government authorities will contact your customers first because that is where they will retrieve testing samples. Since your customers are distributing the non-compliant products, they will be liable. Still, you cannot escape your responsibilities because most retailers have clauses in their buying contracts that pass the liability for damages or claims related to purchased products from themselves to the importer.