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How a counterfeiting dispute sparked a war of words in the trade press


In June, a dispute between US-based electronic controls maker Raffel Systems and Chinese furniture manufacturer Man Wah Holdings over the alleged counterfeiting of high-tech cup holders seemed to come to an end with a $106 million jury award for Raffel Systems. But while the verdict grabbed headlines at the time, the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin decision was not the final say on the matter. Instead, motions continue, Raffel is calling for the US authorities to investigate its rival and both sides have been fighting a public war of words in the trade press in the three months since.

Around four years ago customers started to complain that Raffel’s multifunctional cup holder control for power furniture was failing in the field, says company president Richard Weeden. This was “very unlike genuine Raffel parts”, he states. So the company immediately took action and asked its customers to return the problem parts. “It was an unfortunate thing, to come to find out that one of our signature products was being counterfeited,” Weeden reflects. “That began the long and somewhat painful process of getting to litigation. But we definitely felt that, based on our reputation as an innovator and a leader in the field, there was an absolute necessity to protect Raffel’s good name.”

Raffel’s lawsuit claimed that Chinese furniture manufacturer Man Wah was offering for sale cup holders that were “verbatim copies or very close imitations of Raffel’s proprietary cup holder products”. The company also pointed to a label on the disputed products that was “an exact imitation of a label that Raffel affixes to its proprietary cup holders” and even included the relevant patent number for Raffel products.

Read the full article by Trevor Little here: World Trademark Review.

Raffel's letters can be found here: