US and European authorities have seized thousands of pieces of hardware as part of a major operation to combat counterfeiting.
About 360,000 items were seized in November and December by the US Customs and Border Protection agency and the European Commission’s Taxation and Customs Union Directorate General, the agencies announced last week.
The seizures, mostly of computer networking hardware and integrated circuits, were part of "Operation Infrastructure," aimed at fighting piracy and preventing the spread of counterfeit chips.
Pirated semiconductors and integrated chips have many potential safety ramifications, because they could be used in automobiles, medical equipment and aircraft, said Daryl Hatano, senior vice president of public policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association.
Both companies and consumers need to take steps to avoid becoming counterfeiting victims, Hatano continued.
Manufacturers need to register products with the relevant patent authorities so enforcers could better identify counterfeits. Meanwhile, consumers should return products that don't work properly, so companies can identify counterfeit chips and work with government and industry to nab pirates.
Consumers focused more on price could be fooled into buying products with fake semiconductors, Hatano said. A common practice was re-marking of chips, where counterfeiters replace the label with a different brand name and different part number, he added. The chip might work in equipment but might not have been tested for speed, and the part number might not have been checked, which can lead to equipment failure.
So effective anti-counterfeiting measures not only protected hardware companies’ sales, but also ensured that electronics deliver full performance and reliability, Hatano said.
The US and EU agreed last year that to establish an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to encourage countries to follow intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organisation and other global trade groups. The agreement focuses on improved international cooperation, best practices and the establishment of a legal framework to tackle counterfeiting and protect IP rights.
More than 130 million counterfeit items were seized in 2006, according to a study released by the European Commission last year