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Is your website still yours? Or is it now the domain of a Chinese company?

It's just got to make you feel a bit strange to search through the Internet as you research competitors, and you come across a website that as you begin reading it, sounds very familiar. Maybe that's because it is your website - with a Chinese company's name on the home page.

That's what happened to Rick Finnie this week. Finnie, president of M.R. Mold & Engineering (www.mrmold.com), a custom mold manufacturer specializing in LSR and thermoplastic injection molds, located in Brea, CA, was stunned beyond belief when searching the web for "mold components" he saw images from his own website. That would have been nice except when he clicked on the images it took him to a Chinese company's website.

Not only were the images lifted from M.R. Mold's website, the verbiage was lifted as well - almost word-for-word. They even lifted his tag line! It was M.R. Mold & Engineering's website under the Chinese moldmaker's name. Of course there were a few errors - the Chinese company had neglected to remove M.R. Mold's name in a few places in the verbiage, just to make it a bit more obvious that they'd stolen M.R. Mold's site.

After Finnie got over the initial shock, he contacted a law firm (Ice Miller LLP) that specializes in business law, who is now on the case making attempts to get the web hosting company (which fortunately is in Houston, Texas) to take down the Chinese company's site with a "cease and desist" order. I can't tell you the name of the company yet because this just happened and the attorney has just begun the process of trying to resolve this issue.

I can remember getting spam e-mails from Chinese web-hosting companies demanding that I take down the Injection Molding Magazine site because the name belonged to a Chinese company. I'm sure everyone at the office got the same letter. The "delete" button works well for this type of spam.

A few years ago, a molding company owner told me of a customer who'd gone to China to survey a supplier expecting to find a modern, state-of-the-art shop with new equipment and great technology, based on the photos on the company's website. When he got there, what he found was completely opposite - old equipment, a dirty environment - nothing like he'd seen in the photos on the website. 

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but are those words true? Seeing is believing. But going to China to survey and qualify a supplier is a long and expensive trip only to find out that you've been scammed.

It has cost U.S. companies millions - even tens of millions - of dollars to rescue their products and their reputations from the Chinese, whose ethics in many cases seem to lack. It's a big country and as far as mold and molding shops go, there must be thousands of them doing business. I'm sure the competition is extremely stiff. But one way not to get new business from U.S. manufacturers is to steal another company's website and try to pass it off as your own.

"Certainly we're going to wise up about what we put on our website from now on," Finnie told PlasticsToday. "Our marketing person is interested in sales and certainly we have a lot in the way of technology to show our customers. But from an engineering standpoint, maybe we're showing stuff we shouldn't be showing."

It would behoove all of us to do some searching now and then, to see if we still have ownership of our websites. Protecting our intellectual property - and our reputations - should be job no. 1!

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