Tuesday 7 February 2012

Court case won!

CLIFF Electronics has won a long and complex court case to protect its trademark and products sold in the USA from counterfeiting.

Details of ruling
The court in Topeka, Kansas, USA has issued its order in the long-running dispute between CLIFF UK and its ex-distributor Cliff Electronic Components Inc, of Topeka (CLIFF USA now trading as CHK Electronics) and Andrew Brunt. The court ruled that Cliff USA had infringed on CLIFF UK’s American trademark, engaged in unfair competition with CLIFF UK, falsely designated the origin of its counterfeit goods marketed to American consumers, owes CLIFF UK an unspecified money judgment and infringement penalties yet to be determined. It also ruled that CLIFF UK is entitled to an injunction prohibiting Cliff USA and Andrew Brunt from engaging in further use of the CLIFF trademark or name. The court denied the counterclaims of CLIFF USA and Andrew Brunt, and found the latter personally liable.
The ruling confirms that only CLIFF UK, its USA subsidiary CLIFF, INC., or CLIFF authorised CLIFF resellers are entitled to sell products in the USA under the CLIFF brand name. Counterfeit products must not be marked with the CLIFF name nor sold as genuine CLIFF products. To read the court’s order visit: www.cliffuk.co.uk/lawsuit
OEM who specify CLIFF parts to be used in their products should be aware that genuine parts are only sold by Cliff UK or CLIFF, INC. or an authorised reseller. Names of authorised resellers can be obtained from CLIFF, INC.
A number of components such as Stackjacks™, and some kinds of terminals, which infringe CLIFF UK’s patents are being sold by unauthorised sellers, and used by some USA OEM. These parts have been marked with the CLIFF trademark in the past, but more recently have appeared with no markings. Some OEM who are known to have purchased these parts, whilst awaiting the outcome of this lawsuit , have been advised that they infringe CLIFF UK’s US patents by using patent infringing clones. These OEM should now desist from using parts which infringe our patents.
In 2008 they discovered that a Cliff-branded product returned under complaint from an end user was not manufactured by an authorized Cliff company or in any Cliff production facility. Cliff launched an investigation and was surprised to discover that the product in question had been cloned by Cliff Hong Kong and marketed by Cliff Electronic Components, Inc., which was at that time Cliff’s official distributor in the USA. The company has always been fiercely protective of its trademark and products, their quality and the reputation of the company and this discovery rapidly led to a change to the manner of distribution in the USA and the formation of the current authorized USA distributor, Cliff Inc.

As the investigation continued Cliff UK discovered other cloned products that were being sold under the CLIFF brand name and also that counterfeit Cliff drawings were being used to give a false impression of their provenance and quality. Cliff UK also discovered the sources of manufacture and tracked the companies involved, despite name changes and other measures used to cloud the origins of these counterfeit products.

These actions have resulted in several years of legal proceedings in the USA concluding with a judgment completely in the favour of Cliff Electronics on all points, as detailed in release on the court judgement (see box). Cliff UK is now awaiting the ruling on injunctive relief, damages and penalties to be awarded against Cliff Electronic Components, Inc., and its president, Andrew Brunt, whom the judge ruled is personally liable for all damages to Cliff UK. Cliff is continuing to pursue all other companies and individuals involved.

John Hall, General Manager of Cliff UK comments; "Not only has Cliff lost substantial direct sales in the USA but there has been much confusion caused by misuse of the Cliff brand in the USA, Europe and Asia.”

Throughout this problem Cliff has striven to ensure that its customers were not adversely affected and made great efforts to keep those customers and markets advised, individually by direct notification and collectively via notices on its website and other publicity.

Cliff products are mainly used in professional and high quality equipment and it has been of utmost importance to the company to minimize any problems caused by counterfeit products. In some cases They replaced failing cloned or counterfeit Cliff-branded products with genuine products free of charge. It is a popular belief that the use of counterfeit products causes only quality or reliability problems, but just as important is the issue of invalidating Approvals Files and Certifications if non-approved components are substituted.

The company believes that the recent court ruling demonstrates to all who attempt to counterfeit CLIFF products that all actions necessary will be taken to stop this nuisance and protect CLIFF customers.

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