“It is always the products that are particularly successful on the market, like the Focus S, that are ripped off and copied,” stressed Richard Grohe, Deputy Chairman of Hansgrohe AG (www.hansgrohe.com). The international mixer and shower manufacturer estimates the damage caused by product piracy to be in the order of five to ten percent of total sales annually. “To put it another way, this means that the creation of new jobs at Hansgrohe – and we are talking a sizeable number here, around 100 jobs – is being prevented as a result of these pirated products. Theft of intellectual property hurts the economy and causes job losses.”
“The consumer picks up the tab”
In terms of appearance, the Hansgrohe original and the copy sold under the name JY 00121 are almost impossible to distinguish for the average consumer. “At best, the two products differ in minor design details,” explains Richard Grohe. “However, our original product offers considerably more in terms of functionality, and it therefore represents greater value for the user.” In the case of the Focus S, this additional functionality consists of a flow limiter, for example, which reduces water consumption to five liters per minute, the QuickClean anti-lime scale function, and an integrated hot-water flow safety restriction. “The makers of pirated copies generally hope to be competitive on the basis of low cost,” says the Deputy Chairman of Hansgrohe. “They therefore invest little in the functionality and quality of the products. Usually it is the consumer who is disadvantaged. Consumers will always be better off choosing the original product.”
Plagiarius – the “prize no one wants”
Every year since 1977, manufacturers and distributors of pirated products are “distinguished” with the “Plagiarius” award. “Our aim is to expose the blatant theft of ideas – which is to say, intellectual property theft – as a means to raise public awareness of the unscrupulous business practices of the product pirates,” is how Professor Rido Busse describes the intention behind “Aktion Plagiarius e.V.”. The award trophy is in the form of a black gnome with a golden nose – a metaphor for illicit earnings: “It is the golden nose the product pirates earn for themselves, literally at the expense of the original manufacturers," says Busse. The total of ten recipients of the Plagiarius Prize for 2011 – the "prize no one wants” – were chosen by an eight-member panel of judges representing a wide range of different sectors or interests, including design, protection of industrial property rights, the business community and industry associations.