The supply chain can throw all kinds of technology toward preventing and identifying counterfeit parts, but sometimes plain old word of mouth is the most effective strategy.
Aimtec, a maker of switching power converters, issued a warning last week that counterfeit converters were being manufactured and sold in the global supply chain. In addition to issuing a press release, Aimtec emphasized that its products are sold only through authorized distributors and lists its distributors on its Website.
As part of its warning, Aimtec says: “The company cautions customers from purchasing products from any source other than those listed on its website and warns that products purchased from an unauthorized distributor are not supported by the company's warranty.”
This advice is echoed by the National Electronics Distributors Association in its guide to anti-counterfeiting best practices.
A couple of years ago, the CEO of a small US-based EMS provider told me he was reluctant to publicly recommend that sources of counterfeit components be flagged — either on the Internet, by email, or on a list of suspect sources compiled by an independent distributor advocacy group. Among other things, he said such a practice could cause ill will in the industry and open up the possibility of abuse through false accusations.
To its credit, Aimtec isn’t pointing fingers at any sources. It’s spreading the word that counterfeits are in the channel. Word of mouth or vehicles such as this Website, Twitter, and Facebook can get the news out more quickly than anything else. And it’s low-tech: RFID tags and scanning equipment are great anti-counterfeiting measures, but they’re still too expensive for most suppliers and distributors that would have to tag literally millions of components.
The next step, of course, is finding and prosecuting the counterfeiters. This is extremely difficult and expensive, however, Analog Devices successfully pursued such a case in India in 2004, and more recently Molex prevailed in a patent infringement dispute in Taiwan.
In the meantime, measures such as Aimtec’s can help alert buyers that bogus parts are in circulation.
An interesting side note: One of the ways a buyer can identify a counterfeit Aimtec part is by its “unreasonably low resale price.” In the coming weeks the topic of pricing — global and otherwise — will be examined here on EBNonline.