Industry

ATA Tackles Counterfeit Products

Manufacturers stand to benefit from tough policies now being implemented.
Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Author: Patrick Durkin

Manufacturers caught counterfeiting archery products will be banished from the Archery Trade Association and denied access to the annual ATA Trade Show, under a policy approved in July by the ATA Board of Directors.

As part of its anti-counterfeiting initiative, the ATA Board also announced that ATA-member manufacturers will soon be able to place the ATA logo on their products so consumers can easily identify them as originals. Nonmember manufacturers that use the logo can expect swift, strong legal action from the ATA to protect the logo’s integrity.

“The ATA Board is sending a strong message that it’s doing everything in its power to stop counterfeiters and fake products,” said Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO. “We’re not talking about the usual intellectual-property disputes where two legitimate manufacturers make similar products. Counterfeiters deliberately copy a product and its packaging. The packaging looks identical, and the product looks identical. The ATA will do everything possible to stop illegal activities.”

The ATA’s crackdown relies on ATA members to be vigilant and provide evidence of counterfeiting to ATA staff. The Board directed that ATA membership be used to identify legitimate manufacturers of archery and bowhunting products. Evidence of counterfeiting — whether physical products or online advertising that uses photos or descriptions — should be sent to Wendy Lang, ATA membership manager, wendylang@archerytrade.org. Lang can also be reached at (507) 233-8134, or toll-free at (866) 266-2776, extension 103.

“We’ll police our ranks and look into every allegation,” McAninch said. “We’re inspecting the ATA’s membership rolls, verifying everyone’s status, and terminating any company or person connected with counterfeiting. We want our members to tell us everything they know about counterfeiting issues. When we feel it’s necessary, we will also use a third-party company to investigate matters. When we identify violations, the least we will do is strip violators of their ATA membership, and remove or bar them from the Trade Show.”

Counterfeiting’s Complexities

 

Under a policy approved in July by the ATA Board of Directors, manufacturers caught counterfeiting archery products will be banished from the Archery Trade Association and denied access to the annual ATA Trade Show. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo.

McAninch said counterfeiting is difficult to stop because it’s complex and widespread, but it’s not unique to the archery industry. It’s also a major problem for manufacturers in electronics, jewelry, clothing and just about any industry where brand names matter. Counterfeiting’s dramatic increase worldwide results from the growing dependence on e-commerce, where customers rely on online images and descriptions to make product choices.

The ATA Board distinguishes counterfeiting from copycat manufacturing. “Knock-offs, copycats and me-too products — that’s been around for years and will never go away,” McAninch said. “But in those cases, companies have legal recourse. They can contest possible infringements in court, and sometimes make legal or licensing arrangements to work together or keep competing in the same product category.”

McAninch said use of the ATA logo will further strengthen protection against counterfeiters. “Protecting our logo’s integrity will greatly aid enforcements,” he said. “By designating products as legitimate originals produced by an ATA-member company, we’re assuring archers and bowhunters that they’re buying the real deal.

“If someone counterfeits our logo and the product, it will diminish the ATA logo,” McAninch continued. “In those cases the damages go well beyond the value of the product and extend to all products carrying the logo. You can imagine if all 600-plus ATA manufacturing members use the logo on all their products how the damage value can skyrocket. Everyone can trust that ATA will seek extensive damages from anyone using our logo illegally.”

The ATA is also working with the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Trade and Development Agency to identify counterfeiters and fake products to stop illegal imports. McAninch has met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Ross assured him the agency is aware of counterfeiting’s impact on industries like archery/bowhunting.

“The ATA has been involved in anti-counterfeiting efforts a long time, and this administration takes the issue more seriously than the previous administration,” McAninch said. “They’re taking strong steps against fraud and counterfeiting. Companies will have recourse. More of them will be able to pursue the counterfeiters.

“We’ll never eliminate counterfeiting, but we can reduce blatant acts of counterfeiting and drive it far underground,” McAninch continued. “It’s a huge challenge, given the incredible number of products being counterfeited, the growth of e-commerce worldwide, and the limited time and resources needed to stem the flow of counterfeits. Also, archery products aren’t as expensive as most electronics and high-end clothing, so it’s hard to get as much attention as high-end products. But we keep working to do all we can.”

Work with Retailers

Jay McAninch, President/CEO of the Archery Trade Association stated, “Counterfeiting isn’t a victimless crime...it has serious financial impacts on legitimate ATA members. We want to help retailers work with customers, and collectively restore pride in buying original products." Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo.

The ATA Board also directed the ATA to work with retailers and consumers to make it difficult to buy and sell fake products. The ATA plans to produce and distribute educational materials to help everyone understand the problem and avoid being duped. Further, it will be working with the Retail Council and buying groups to urge manufacturers to provide information and other assistance to identify counterfeits. In addition, ATA will offer seminars on counterfeiting at the Trade Show, and inform retailers that buying products of unclear origin risk significant legal consequences.

“Counterfeiting isn’t a victimless crime,” McAninch said. “It has serious financial impacts on legitimate ATA members. We want to help retailers work with customers, and collectively restore pride in buying original products. We can support legitimate retailers and manufacturers. It’s not just about saving a little money. It puts inferior products into the field, which can be unsafe for people.”

The ATA will use its Archery360 and Bowhunting360 platforms, and other industry programs to broadcast its strong counterfeiting message to spread that message.

In addition, the Board directed the ATA to work with state and federal wildlife agencies to explain how counterfeiting harms wildlife-management programs nationwide. Counterfeiters don’t pay federal excise taxes on archery/bowhunting gear, as mandated by the Pittman-Robertson Act. The IRS collects the money and sends it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which distributes it to state agencies for conservation and hunter-education programs.

“Everyone loses when counterfeiters operate with impunity,” McAninch said. “We’re making sure wildlife agencies realize what’s going on. Their customers hurt conservation every time they buy something with a price that’s too good to be true. Hunters and state agencies are losing money for vital projects. Counterfeiters hurt conservation.”

McAninch and Dan Forster, the ATA’s director of government relations, will take that message to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ annual conference in September. The gathering attracts all 50 state wildlife-agency directors.

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