I very much appreciate MGS and the information that can be found. However, I find the recent blog article on clones to be a bit misguided and misinformed. Below is a paper that I wrote in 2007.
Counterfeits and Clones â€“ from the same cloth
Written by L Mayhew Aug 24, 2007 Â©
Clone/Knock-Off Golf Clubs: Have cosmetic resemblance to true Manufacturer Clubs, but internally they are not the same. Construction, Material, or Quality. They may have similar names Turner T7, Gallery, and so on. A Clone or Knock off is not hard to see. Go to eBay, or Diamond Tour. Turner T7 that resembles a TaylorMade r7. Note: The FTC considers the terms Clone and Knock-Off to be identical.
Counterfeit/Copy Golf Clubs: Are direct copies of OEM equipment. Lasers are used to copy the exterior of high selling clubs; again, there is no internal accuracy, nor the same construction, material or quality. Counterfeits or a Copy, are much harder to tell and that is why the Golf manufacturers are in fact going after these factories.
Component Golf Clubs: Such as, INFINITI, SMT, NAKASHIMA, and KZG, are original designs and are legitimate and ARE NOT part of any reference.
What's the harm in buying a Knock-Off/Clone?
The assertion made that many Clones are made in the same factories as OEM clubs is unsubstantiated and simply incorrect. Counterfeit Clubs and Clones are more often manufactured in the same factories in China. So while, technically you may not be buying and thereby promoting counterfeit clubs, you are in fact enabling those same facilities to continue by buying Clones/Knock-Offs.
Knock-Offs/Clone Golf clubs operate in a gray area as described in the article â€œPssst . . . Wanna buy some clubs?â€ (E.M. SWIFT) Determination of trademark infringement is tough to prove and costly. Although new legislation is going to clarify this further. There is current debate at the FTC, and US Patent Office level, on how closely a product can resemble another. These cases have been won in other industries. It is a matter of time and money right now.
There are just too many cases backing up the problems. It has become rampant and that is why ACUSHNET (TITLEIST/COBRAS), ADAMS, CALLAWAY, CLEVELAND, PING, and TAYLORMADE are part of and formed the U.S. GOLF MANUFACTURERS ANTI-COUNTERFEITING WORKING GROUP. Of course the currently have their hands and funds fully committed going after Counterfeit Clubs.
An excerpt from â€œPssst . . . Wanna buy some clubs? (E.M. SWIFT)
Jethro Liou is an expert in the knockoff business. A boyish 25-year-old Californian, he has been selling golf clubs since he was 15. After school he would make cold calls for his father, Ren-Jei (R.J.) Liou, asking pro shops and discount stores if they wanted to order from his line of clubs. R.J. owned Kent Graphtec, an importer of club components from Taiwan and, later, China. He'd have the components assembled at his warehouse outside of Los Angeles and would distribute them to retailers all over the U.S. "The golf business was so good between 1991 and '97, you could sell anything," Jethro says. "We were one of the first companies to import from China."
Kent Graphtec dealt primarily in knockoff clubs, products with names such as King Snake and Big Bursar, simulations of the popular clubs King Cobra and Big Bertha. "The customs people thought my father was [the primary distributor of] King Snake, which in its heyday had something like 10% of the market," Jethro says, "but a lot of people were importing that product."
A lot of people eventually got in trouble for it too. "There are different levels of counterfeiting," says Debra Peterson, a U.S. customs official who was involved in Project Teed Off. There is the direct counterfeit, which is a dead-on copy that carries the legitimate product's trademark, and that's illegal. Also illegal is a club that is very close to a direct copy and is termed either "confusingly similar" (if it infringes on company trademarks) or "substantially similar" (if it infringes on design patents). What is legal is the generic look-alike that does not infringe on a company's trademarks or patents. Some features of a driver, its head size, for instance, cannot be protected, but others can. But with confusingly or substantially similar knockoffs, the line between legality and patent or trademark infringement is often fuzzy and is subject to legal challenge and interpretation. A counterfeiter tries to alter a company's protected features just enough to avoid prosecution. Whether the result is illegal can be established only in court, on a case-by-case basis; in other words, the aggrieved company has to sue.
Callaway threatened to sue Kent Graphtec over its Big Bursar driver, alleging patent, trademark and trade dress (trademark-design) infringement. In 1997 R.J. Liou reached a settlement with Callaway. Four years later, in March 2001, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that R.J. Liou, Kent Graphtec and Trophy Sports, a separate company started by Jethro and his mother, Yeh-Chyn, in late 2000, had breached the settlement by continuing to sell Big Bursars. The court ordered the defendants to pay $20,000 in damages to Callaway and to turn over their inventory of more than 11,500 infringing components for Callaway to destroy. According to Jethro, the family's legal fees for the discovery phase alone came to more than $1 million.
Let's connect the dots. Nearly all Club heads come from China. The rest (save for some Ping), come from Japan. Clones come from the most of the same Chinese factories that produce Counterfeit clubs. Thereby, purchasing Clones ultimately supports those factories who build Counterfeit clubs.
So how about Sellers of Clones?
If a component seller such as Diamond Tour wants to be fully legitimate, they need to invest fully in true component companies such as SMT, and abandon the practice of selling Clone clubs. Counterfeit Clubs and Clone Clubs, the operators who sell and produce, contribute to higher prices of the legitimate brands.
China cannot enforce without participation of the Patented/Trademark holder. Which they are doing, but it is costly. There have been recent factories busted in China. They are concentrating on Counterfeits and Copies, but again, Clones and Knock Offs are part of the same problem. There just simply is not the time or money right now to go after them.
I need cheap clubs and their just as good.
While laser technology can scan the outside, they do not scan the inside. There are many reasons besides marketing costs why they are cheaper. Material used is cheaper. No Research and Design Costs. No Reps. No Service. No U.S. assembly.
How can a Clone maker or Seller say that they are not trying to fool anyone? A clone of an FT-i is made so that beginning golfers "think" that they are getting the same design characteristics as the original at a budget price. When in fact materials, quality, and internal design isn't even close.
It doesn't cost that much more to purchase legitimate past year models. It does however cost money to get started in golf. Starting should also include lessons. A PGA Professional will give a lesson to anyone, but ask them if a Clone/Knock-Off club is a good choice and see what type of answer you will get. For those who feel Clones perform just as well as OEM - I won't argue that point, you have convinced yourself.
Why is it my problem?
One doesn't have to be an Attorney to read or be educated on the law. To say that a consumer has no responsibility is, well sad. It is the consumers who have the most power to affect change.
This site is full of PGA Professionals, Company Reps, and the suggestion to use Clone/Knock Off clubs is disrespectful. Golf is a game of honor. You invest your time and should invest equally in your equipment. Clones are a short cut. Make yourself aware. GOOGLE "Counterfeit Golf Clubs" and take a look at how rampant it is. Read further and you will find that the same factories involved are also producing Clone Clubs.
It may be understandable that we as consumers can be fooled by Counterfeits/Copies (Illegal), but there is no way anyone of us could not identify a Clone/Knock-Off (Legal).
It is your decision and right (for the time being) to buy a Clone/Knock-Off. It just isn't very admirable.
There is a difference in this world with having "the right" to do something, and doing something with honor. It would be more honorable for a person to show up with RAMs purchased at Target than to use Knock-Offs/Clones. The later hurts the Golf Manufacturers and the integrity of their designs, thereby hurts all involved, Reps, Retailers, and yes ultimately the game of golf.
If you agree that Counterfeit Clubs and Copies are Illegal, does it not then bother you that even though Knock-Offs/Clones are currently Legal, they are still made by the same factories in China? That you are giving money to an operation that also conducts Illegal activities?
For those who want to play Knock-Offs, yes it is your "right". Just ask yourself, have you ever had someone take credit for your hard work? Has anyone ever stolen an idea or proposal you have written? Has anyone ever stolen a customer of yours? Do you not find all of those cases wrong, frustrating, and near impossible to prove? Knock-Offs operates under the same principle. Someone else designed it, so they're going to laser copy it, skip the R&D, use cheaper material, spend nothing on advertising the new design, and take money from a certain consumer segment. The uninformed, the newbie, the consumer who is jealous of the success of OEMs and their need to earn profits.
An excerpt from â€œPssst . . . Wanna buy some clubs?â€ (E.M. SWIFT) Inside was a TaylorMade wedge. Within minutes a graphics designer at Yarn-Way had downloaded the logo from the TaylorMade shaft onto a computer screen and was making minor design and color alterations to it. He incorporated the word Integra into the logo and then submitted it to Liou for approval. The altered logo would be applied to the graphite shafts Yarn-Way was making for Liou's Integra line. "All you have to do is make a few changes to keep anyone from suing you," Zhu said of equipment that walks the fine line between what's legal and what's not.
Ultimately the point in all of this is that of all Sports activities, Golf is a gentleman's game, it is honor, and it is self-policing. Those involved in this great game should have a certain level of ethics. Not driven only by what is legal, but what is right.
E.M. SWIFT, DON YAEGER. "Pssst...Wanna buy some clubs?" Sports Illustrated 14 Jul 2003.
For those interested, below is the article "Pssst...Wanna buy some clubs?"
Pssst...Wanna Buy Some Clubs 2003.doc