No mercy for pirates

Piracy is estimated to cause annual losses of 30 billion euros, putting around 70,000 jobs at risk throughout Germany. “Product piracy is no trivial offence, which is why we have been taking decisive steps to combat plagiarism for years now,” said Richard Grohe, deputy CEO of Hansgrohe SE at ISH, one of the world’s largest sanitary trade fairs in Frankfurt am Main. Working with customs and patent agents, the Black Forest-based bathroom and sanitation specialist had pirate copies of Hansgrohe showers and a Hansgrohe kitchen mixer seized and confiscated on the opening day of ISH.

“Damage caused by plagiarism costs us five to 10 per cent of total sales,” said Grohe. “This also prevents our company from creating around 100 new jobs.” Product pirates caught at the ISH face dire consequences: closure of their trade fair stand, payments of damages, even criminal proceedings. This zero-tolerance policy, which Messe Frankfurt, customs and Hansgrohe SE have adopted in working together, is having the appropriate impact.

Economic loss is not the only reason why Hansgrohe invests between two and three million euros annually in the legal protection of its own rights and in the fight against piracy and plagiarism. “Companies whose products are copied must be prepared to suffer immeasurable damage to their image,” explained, “because consumers will erroneously attribute the quality, safety and functional defects, which are typically found in copies, to the original.”

Indeed, it’s not just in Europe that Hansgrohe SE has recorded legal successes against producers and sellers of pirate copies. The mixer and shower specialist from Schiltach has won judgements against manufacturers of counterfeit products in China as well. “We owe it to the consumers, and also to our partners in specialist bathroom retail and trade, to constantly clamp down on product pirates in this way,” said Grohe, “because the cheap copies are detrimental to them too, as they are to us, the brand-name company.”