Recently, Beaumont Technologies Inc. began a discussion on the American Moldmakers & Molders Network on LinkedIn as an "alert" to its clients, colleagues, associates and friends that Beaumont's intellectual property and patents have been violated by Chinese companies [Beaumont Technologies warns others of IP theft in China]. These companies, IDOPO or Onlytech, are "violating Beaumont Technologies Inc. trademark and copyright by masquerading as a company representing MeltFlipper." One company is represented itself as "providers of Moldflow Simulation services and Scientific Injection Molding."
Beaumont is issuing this warning to prevent "potential complications resulting from molds or product entering the U.S. that include, or have been produced with, pirated technologies."
The LinkedIn message brought other horror stories from people who have also had their IP stolen by Chinese companies.
John Blundy, who wrote the original warning about Beaumont's IP theft, posted an update to this. "I am happy to report Michael Taylor of SPI did an outstanding job of coordinating a meeting for John Beaumont and I with the Intellectual Property Rights division of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI."
"The individuals and agencies present clearly were aware of these and similar problems U.S. companies experience with violations of their IP and patents from companies outside the USA. They advised us of actions they will assist us with as part of their ongoing effort to prosecute the offenders. While the details of our meeting are confidential to our company, I can report and encourage any U.S. plastics company who had experienced IP and patent violations to contact Michael at SPI, and or the Department of Homeland Security, IPR Division."
Blundy also pointed out that Beaumont found help from these entities "without considerable expense."
I see stories like this on the internet nearly every week. It's an ongoing problem that companies need to be aware of when they send their products, molds or product and mold designs to China. They are ripe for the picking.
One person responding to Beaumont's plight noted that materials continue to be a problem. There is the problem of building duplicate molds—one for the customer and one for themselves using the customer's exact design. "They substitute materials to a lower grade/quality resin. Since materials are the largest cost contributor to [the molder's] overall cost, [the molders] tend to cheat on volume."
This person then told of a "little trick" that he picked up on his many trips to China to oversee the program. "Take a 1in^ 3 box and reduce it by the allowable .005 inch tolerance. When you cube .995 x .995x .995 = .985 or a loss of 1.5%," he explained. Now take that same volume of 1in^3 and use a longer slender rectangle of 10x1x.1 = 1 in^3. Now apply those same tolerances to that 9.995 x .095 = 5.52%. You start with the same original volume and the same original tolerances but end up with over three times the reduction. Take that volume across an I-beam design required to hold 20 lbs. - you lose approximately 25% strength. Then they substituted 225,000 modulus PP with 163,000 modulus PP, and now the product was 40% weaker and failed strength tests by over 8 lb.
The companies are different but many of the stories are similar. However, as Blundy noted, there is help available for those of you who are having problems.
The caveat for this year is the same as it's been for many years: OEMs beware of where you place your tooling and molding. It's easier to prevent IP theft than it is to track down and attempt to catch and prosecute the bad guys.