Product copying by far eastern manufacturers is a common problem, as highlighted last month when JCB successfully applied for injunctions against unnamed manufacturers for displaying certain machines at Bauma 2010 (Forkliftaction.com News #459)
contacted leading industry members to get their opinions on the rise of Chinese forklift companies and the incidence of product copying.
Daniel Vanhemelrijck, sales manager of Belgium-based Doosan Infracore Europe, thinks the Chinese "will always be one step behind" other forklift manufacturers.
"Most of them are still just copying ... Few [of the Chinese] understand the necessity of investing in R&D. We are not afraid of the Chinese invasion anymore, because they can only offer an attractive price, mainly in US dollars," he says.
Vanhemelrijck says while the Chinese are weak in after sales, spare parts and customer market representation, their forklift prices will go up accordingly once those improve.
"We have all been through the same situation. Japanese brands in the '60s, Korean brands in the '80s, the Chinese now and the "next generation" might soon be from India, Pakistan and Brazil. Initially, the Chinese invasion created panic among suppliers but we notice already that only a few brands will be successful."
A spokesman from a leading European forklift manufacturer, who wants to remain anonymous, says his company keeps a close eye on Chinese manufacturers but is not threatened by them .
"Already at CeMAT 2005 and 2008, Chinese manufacturers presented [several] products very similar to the products of European market leaders but obviously Chinese product copying is not only a problem of the intralogistics sector," he says.
He says Chinese manufacturers, "fortunately", have yet to emulate the high quality and innovation standards of forklift market leaders but "we permanently keep a close look at Chinese manufacturers and their products".
"By buying a European or American manufacturer, a Chinese investor could become a market [leader] one day," he says.
Nick Yaksich, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers' vice president of global public policy, says intellectual property right conditions in developing countries remain dismal, despite considerable improvements in some countries.
He says there have been improvements in some developing countries to make their laws comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. However, trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy incidents are still rampant, largely due to an inadequate enforcement regime.
"Fighting counterfeiting and piracy is a global issue. In a global economy, manufacturers can compete with superior quality but they lose when their intellectual property is stolen and the laws are not enforced," Yaksich says.
The office of the United States Trade Representative released its annual "Special 301 Report"
last week, in which 77 US trading partners were reviewed and 41 countries placed on a priority watch list, watch list or monitoring list.