Phone retailers are about to discover that they risk legal action for selling fake Bluetooth gear. Over 50% of Bluetooth equipment on sale in the UK is counterfeit, according to a survey. And that figure is set to rise.
By year end, as little as 15% of the "Bluetooth" equipment on sale in retail outlets may be genuine, say SIG members.
Unlike fashion fakery, a fake Bluetooth device is not merely a trademark infringement; it's very probably going to fail to work properly - and so a blitz is being planned on suppliers of these tiny wireless gadgets, some of which "have only 10% of the range expected."
The counterfeiters are apparently preparing to flood the market with even more fakes for the end-of-year boom expected in hands-free Bluetooth gear, which is expected as the result of impending legislation in several countries about driving with cellphones.
The campaign will be orchestrated by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, inspired by frustration felt with the retail trade by members, particularly TDK Grey Cell, a leading supplier. Essentially, high street phone shops are not asking questions.
"It ought to be easy for retailers to check, but there seems to be a strange reluctance to do so," said Nick Hunn, managing director of TDK.
For a prospective buyer there's an easy check. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has posted a list of companies who have signed up to use the Bluetooth logo. It's available for everyone to check at the membership page of the Blutooth SIG site.
"If the name on the packaging of your Bluetooth product isn't there it's potentially a counterfeit product," said Hunn. His company sponsored a recent survey which showed that over 50% of Bluetooth accessories on sale in the U.K. were counterfeit.
"With the number of headsets and car-kits preparing to flood in to address the impending legislation that number could rise to 85% by Christmas. The Bluetooth industry has moved to support the user's experience by putting its house in order," said Hunn. "It's time for the retail sector to respect their customers by following suit."
The threat could be substantial. Not only are non-validated gadgets likely to work badly, but they might breach broadcasting regulations. "If the threat to store reputations and sales is not sufficient, it should be pointed out that customers are just as able to trace the legality of the product they've been sold to determine if it's legal or counterfeit. If it's the latter, it may be more than just the product that a disgruntled customer brings back to the shop. It might be accompanied by a trading standards' officer," Hunn observed.
The campaign kicks off today (Sept. 23) and will focus on the fact that Bluetooth isn't just a technology, but a brand name.
"It's not easy to stop rogue manufacturers shipping unqualified products," explains the Bluetooth SIG backgrounder. "To make enforcement effective the Bluetooth SIG has taken an unusual, but effective approach. We've registered the Bluetooth name and logo as registered trademarks around the world."
They're currently registered in over 30 countries, including the USA, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. If a product is produced that has not met the qualification requirements, then it does not have the right to use the word Bluetooth or carry the Bluetooth logo. If such a product does use the work Bluetooth or has the logo then it is infringing the trademark registration within the country in which it is located.
"The law on trademark registration is very similar in most countries - the violating product can be confiscated and destroyed, whether it is at the manufacturer, the importer, the distributor, the reseller or even the end user. And anyone attempting to sell such products may face prosecution and a fine."
And in many cases, confiscation and destruction of stock can follow, too.
A more detailed white paper on approvals is available from TDK Systems.