Abro Industries, out of Indiana, makes and sells products under the “Made in the USA” label. Abro sells products like duct tape and epoxy glue, and does quite well in emerging economies. Abro’s Tim Demarias scours the world seeking to open new markets. At one point, Tim noticed that sales were down considerably, and suspected counterfeiters. In an NPR broadcast entitled “The Stolen Company”, Tim recounts his adventures in chasing down one particularly ruthless counterfeiter out of China. Here’s the transcript of the broadcast:
[NPR HOST]: Anyways, Tim couldn't figure this out. Why were his sales slipping?
[NPR HOST]: And then he heard from a customer who had seen some counterfeit Abro products in China.
[NPR HOST]: Tim gets on a plane to investigate. His first stop is this trade show that everyone in his business goes to.
DEMARAIS: The Canton Trade Fair is one of the largest trade fairs in the world.
[NPR HOST]: His first day there, Tim's walking around this massive exhibition hall hunting for clues.
[NPR HOST]: And then, suddenly, he freezes.
DEMARAIS: I peered around the corner, hiding, really, behind a booth. And I looked around, and I was literally shocked to see what was in front of me.
[NPR HOST]: In front of Tim is a booth that looks to be an Abro booth. But the thing is Abro never paid for a booth at this fair. It's the same logo, same colors, same products, same everything. Only, no one inside the booth actually worked at Abro.
DEMARAIS: They were passing out Abro business cards, Abro catalogs with all our products in it to my Abro customers that were visiting. So there was total confusion.
[NPR HOST]: Oh, my God.
DEMARAIS: They were telling people they were the Abro subsidiary in China.
[NPR HOST]: Tim knows Abro doesn't have a subsidiary in China, so he goes straight to the show officials to complain.
[NPR HOST]: He provides documents showing Abro has the real trademark registration for Abro in China. The officials confirm this with authorities in Beijing. And then, boom, they agree. They will raid the fake Abro booth with Tim.
DEMARAIS: We had police personnel. There were military personnel because...
[NPR HOST]: There were military guys in this entourage to raid the booth?
DEMARAIS: Absolutely, absolutely.
[NPR HOST]: Why?
DEMARAIS: Because - the military is part of these trade shows in China because they own some of the companies. So I'm marching. I'm leading my army of men. I feel like a general going to battle. I mean, it was kind of scary, but kind of exciting.
[NPR HOST]: Tim gets to the booth and gets right up in the face of the man who seems to be in charge of the operation.
DEMARAIS: I said, the party's over. Mr. Abro is here.
[NPR HOST]: But then the Chinese guy turns to him and says very calmly, no, you're the fake. And he reaches into a briefcase and pulls out a set of documents that he says shows he is the one who owns the Abro trademark in China.
[NPR HOST]: Everyone just sort of looks around at each other, stunned. And the show officials start backing off. They don't know who to believe here.
[NPR HOST]: But Tim - Tim knows something they don't know. He points to a 4-foot-tall poster inside the booth. It's a blown-up photograph of a woman who appears on every package of Abro epoxy glue.
DEMARAIS: I said to the owner, who is that woman you have in the photo? He said, that's just a Western model. At that moment, I lost it. I just lost it. I said, that is not a Western model; that is my wife. At that time, I just ripped out my wallet. I pulled out a picture of my wife I'd been carrying for last three years and threw it on the table in front of the owner of the company. I said, first, you steal our corporate identity. And now you're stealing my wife.
And that’s just the beginning …. It gets worse.