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Counterfeits and Clones . . . of the same cloth


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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 – from the same cloth

Written by L Mayhew Aug 24, 2007 ©

 

Definitions:

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 “Pssst . . . Wanna buy some clubs?” (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 “Pssst . . . 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 “Pssst . . . Wanna buy some clubs?” (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.

 

 

SOURCES

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

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I have mixed feelings about this. First, I will probably never play clones. My take is that a clone starts out with the intention of LOOKING LIKE the real thing. Whereas the real thing starts out with the intention of doing its job, hitting a golf ball. A clones primary objective is to look like a thing that is designed to hit a golf ball, actually hitting the ball is probably desired, but not the primary objective. When golfing, I prefer that my equipment be designed to PLAY golf.

 

However, I disagree a bit with the moral baggage you are trying to foist off on the consumer. First off, I don't think most clone companies are actually trying to trick people. I don't know anyone that thinks a Clone and a Brand are the SAME THING. Now, they might believe they play the same, they might believe its worth a performance loss to save money, but I don't think any of them are unaware of what they are buying. The fact of where clone company clubs are manufactured, whether it be in the same factories as brand name clubs, or the same factories as counterfeit clubs, is imo completely irrelevant to both the clone company and to the consumer. The immorality is not transitive, you can't say that because you know a bad person, you must be one yourself.

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I find this article pretentious and arrogant. It talks of "honor", but wheres the honor in charging a person that busts their ass 60 hours a week for $7/hour, $400 for a driver? I'm in complete agreement with Tyk; they are not trying to trick people, they are trying to make something affordable for people who aren't so fortunate, but still love the game of golf. When I was growing up, my parents only provided me with what I needed to survive, not because they couldn't afford it, but because they wanted to teach me that you had to work hard to get what you wanted. When I was a junior in high school, I bought myself a full set of King Snakes and worked my ass off to get the $250 to buy the set (Driver-SW). I played to a 4 handicap with those clubs and didn't buy my first "real" set until after I started my career and could afford it. The first "real" club I bought was in college and it was a Titleist 975-JVS and I had it on layaway for 4 months until I paid it off. For every person that can afford to have $2000 in clubs in their bag, because they "honor" and love the game, I'll show you a guy that plays clones and has just as much "honor" and love for the game. This kind of thinking is whats wrong with America.

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Whereas the real thing starts out with the intention of doing its job, hitting a golf ball. A clones primary objective is to look like a thing that is designed to hit a golf ball, actually hitting the ball is probably desired, but not the primary objective.

 

Tyk, I think we're long past the point where better performance is always the end game. Do you believe story behind the R11 was that of an amazing technological breakthrough, or did TaylorMade simply figure out that if they did something radically different (paint it white), they'd lure hundreds of thousands of golfers to their product? I used to do a lot of fishing back in the day, and one of the popular adages was that fishing lures weren't designed to catch fish, they were designed to lure fisherman. I believe in many respects the same is true of the modern golf industry. The designs themselves have very little to do with increased performance, it's all about playing to idea that new and different must be significantly better.

 

Where reality seems to set in is with blade and muscle back design. Because by their very nature designs must be simple, you see far less turnover from year to year because almost nothing changes from a performance perspective, and the blade format doesn't lend itself well to outlandish paint, and graphics.

 

 

People who buy clones are buying because of price, not performance. Therefore, those people were not prospective customers for the large OEMs in the first place.

 

Our tests suggest there's not $200 worth of performance difference between an OEM club and a mid-tier clone. Some would argue (and I'd agree where higher end clones are concerned), that you are in fact paying for the performance of the clone. What you're not paying for are bloated marketing departments and their ridiculous budgets.

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Our tests suggest there's not $200 worth of performance difference between an OEM club and a mid-tier clone. Some would argue (and I'd agree where higher end clones are concerned), that you are in fact paying for the performance of the clone. What you're not paying for are bloated marketing departments and their ridiculous budgets.

Exactly. Thats why I threw in my reply, that I played to a 4 handi with a full set of King Snakes. You get performance from yourself, not from having $2000 worth of clubs in your bag.

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Well, in regards to the R11 analogy: no, there certainly wasn't a radical technological breakthrough there, but the R11 was a culmination of previously developed technology and for some marketing buzz, they painted it white! Corny, sure, but even if you say that the R11 is just a White R9. . .well, was the R9 a revolutionary breakthrough or was it a progression from the R7? Its a steady progression and TaylorMade is doing what companies do, trying to find the balance between quality, performance, style, and pricing that makes their clubs desirable.

 

I think your test was very good but not really very surprising to me. Is it going to cause me to go out and look for the best knock off clone clubs I can find? No, for many reasons, and I'm not a guy that upgrades often or has to have the newest bestest thing. I buy clubs that are a season or two old and consider future purchases carefully with the goal of improving my score on the course.

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Our tests suggest there's not $200 worth of performance difference between an OEM club and a mid-tier clone. Some would argue (and I'd agree where higher end clones are concerned), that you are in fact paying for the performance of the clone. What you're not paying for are bloated marketing departments and their ridiculous budgets.

 

 

I read the article you posted and it was very well done. I agree with you and the test findings.

 

My point was to the OP and his claim that clones take business away from the big boys. My guess is that the majority of people who buy clones do so because it's in their price range, thus making the real clubs out of their price range and never a legitimate option for them. The opportunity loss theory is a little bit of a red herring in the argument against cloned product.

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Not to mention that the author should get some of the facts straight before writing an "article".

 

Most OEM's are manufactured in China... so it's not just clones and counterfeits.

 

I know for a fact that the same foundries who manufacture the clones also produce for the OEM's.

 

Informing is good... misguiding... not that good...

 

EDIT: Someone else mentioned earlier... it's not the arrow, it's the indian! I started playing at the same time with colleague from the office. He buys his $2000 Ping Rapture V2 set and I play my DiamondTour T9 (TM R9 clones). With less than 12 months of game time, I'm shooting high 80's and he's still shooting over 100.

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Not to mention that the author should get some of the facts straight before writing an "article".

 

Most OEM's are manufactured in China... so it's not just clones and counterfeits.

 

I know for a fact that the same foundries who manufacture the clones also produce for the OEM's.

 

Informing is good... misguiding... not that good...

 

EDIT: Someone else mentioned earlier... it's not the arrow, it's the indian! I started playing at the same time with colleague from the office. He buys his $2000 Ping Rapture V2 set and I play my DiamondTour T9 (TM R9 clones). With less than 12 months of game time, I'm shooting high 80's and he's still shooting over 100.

 

I'm disinclined towards clones. They strike me as dishonest and suspect. A close inspection of clones will surely produce some inconsistencies in lie and loft that could be damaging to the swing or game of the innocent. I would rather put my investment in components as there are more often start ups amongst them launched on a dream of growth and earning through merit. There is no effort to fool or copy, just an offer of a design they believe enough in to put their money on the line and submit for your judgement.

 

 

Shambles

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A close inspection of clones will surely produce some inconsistencies in lie and loft that could be damaging to the swing or game of the innocent.

 

Shambles

 

 

Shambles - when, in the early incarnations of the ULTIMATE Review system, I was spec checking clubs for length, lie, loft, and flex, almost everything we received for testing had a club or few that was off for lie and loft (don't even get me started about the inconsistencies of flex). So while you're assessment is probably correct, simply buying a more reputable brand does not guarantee a more perfect club.

 

 

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As long as they are not trying to trick you into thinking you're buyng an OEM product, I think it's ridiculous to paint clones as dishonest. That's like saying you shouldn't buy the supermarket brand Mac and Cheese because they're just piggybacking on Kraft, or the CVS brand ibuprofen because they're just copying Advil. This happens in practically every area of business, and it seems like the original poster is just criticizing it in golf because a) there's also a lot of counterfeiting going on (and I'm sure the OEMs would love to paint the two with the same brush), and B) it's originating in China, which apparently makes it sketchier than when good American companies do the same sorts of things.

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Shambles - when, in the early incarnations of the ULTIMATE Review system, I was spec checking clubs for length, lie, loft, and flex, almost everything we received for testing had a club or few that was off for lie and loft (don't even get me started about the inconsistencies of flex). So while you're assessment is probably correct, simply buying a more reputable brand does not guarantee a more perfect club.

 

I actually agree with and support your position.

 

You can find inconsistencies in many products. However the incidences of out of spec are far fewer where we purchase products from well invested and well accepted producers, at least at the time when products were produced in advanced industrial countries like the USA and Japan. Culturally speaking, there was pride and respect for standards that had to be met or exceeded and this was easier to find in the population than one would generally expect. Raising the morale of a work force to deliver products to spec was not so very difficult.

 

Boutiques can produce quality when the investors are personally involved in every aspect of production if those investors have the knowledge needed and integrity of their own. Short cut artists are more likely to produce shoddy products.

 

I'm of the opinion that large mainstream producers are continuing to try to produce products to spec but are encountering new challenges since moving their production to distant places. It shows in the incidences of failure. I have confidence that, given time and effort, management will overcome these challenges but for now consumers will probably need to return products more than in other times.

 

 

Shambles

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i cannot agree more with the responses of stevenhw8 and golfspyt. the guy writing the article is downright deluded and also very arrogant. theres nothing dishonorable about buying cheaper clubs. Honma and miura clubs probably would perform terrible in the hands of a bad golfer than a good golfer with a set of king snakes.

 

there is no need for such arrogance to look down on people who simply dont buy brand name clubs for what ever reasons that they choose. like golfspy T said a 60 dollar clone performs close to what a 300 club does it is only a matter of preference for people to buy whatever equipment that makes them enjoy the game more.

 

and i dont think clone clubs are made to trick people into thinking theyre buyng the same brand name club for a fraction of a price. They look smiliar but they are not sold as the original. IM sure consumers are smarter than that if they can tell the difference between Kellogs cereal and the supermarket budget brand alternative

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i cannot agree more with the responses of stevenhw8 and golfspyt. the guy writing the article is downright deluded and also very arrogant. theres nothing dishonorable about buying cheaper clubs. Honma and miura clubs probably would perform terrible in the hands of a bad golfer than a good golfer with a set of king snakes.

 

there is no need for such arrogance to look down on people who simply dont buy brand name clubs for what ever reasons that they choose. like golfspy T said a 60 dollar clone performs close to what a 300 club does it is only a matter of preference for people to buy whatever equipment that makes them enjoy the game more.

 

and i dont think clone clubs are made to trick people into thinking theyre buyng the same brand name club for a fraction of a price. They look smiliar but they are not sold as the original. IM sure consumers are smarter than that if they can tell the difference between Kellogs cereal and the supermarket budget brand alternative

 

It isn't always arrogance.

 

Some people buy clubs with the intention of keeping them for a very long time. Others are aware of the subtleties in club designs but do not know how to identify them. A name brand is often easier to trust because they have warranties that are supported and efficient. They also have a reputation to uphold and are therefore more trusted to build a club correctly. This is not necessarily true for clones whose primary objective is often restricted to appearance, and have more limited budgets. I have experienced the King Snake and also found it to be a pretty good club. However I also experienced other look alikes that were disappointing and catalyzed me to begin a learning process on why clubs are built the way they are and what is important to look for. King Snake was unusual in the looks like department because it worked very well.

 

Golf is tough enough to learn without the added obstacle of clubs that are poorly made and will work poorly even for people who know how to Golf. These days it's made even more difficult because of the spread of counterfeits. It may not be as bad in your part of the world as mine, but honestly, these days even name brands are suspect in my eyes.

 

 

Shambles

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i cannot agree more with the responses of stevenhw8 and golfspyt. the guy writing the article is downright deluded and also very arrogant. theres nothing dishonorable about buying cheaper clubs. Honma and miura clubs probably would perform terrible in the hands of a bad golfer than a good golfer with a set of king snakes.

 

there is no need for such arrogance to look down on people who simply dont buy brand name clubs for what ever reasons that they choose. like golfspy T said a 60 dollar clone performs close to what a 300 club does it is only a matter of preference for people to buy whatever equipment that makes them enjoy the game more.

 

and i dont think clone clubs are made to trick people into thinking theyre buyng the same brand name club for a fraction of a price. They look smiliar but they are not sold as the original. IM sure consumers are smarter than that if they can tell the difference between Kellogs cereal and the supermarket budget brand alternative

 

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i am gonna throw my hat in the ring on this. I got to agree with what Mr Bones says. In the 60s and 70s my dad was pro at a public golf course. We sold "pro line" clubs we we also sold cheaper clubs made by those same manufacturers. Case in point We sold a lot of Ram Fastback golf sets, Wilson Sam Snead Blue Ridges etc.The typical working man could afford them and still afford greens fees. What is happening in golf today is hype and pure BS people today have been convinced by the manufacturers that they have to have the newest thing out to play golf. I do not condone counterfitting by any means. i can understand why though the typical recreational player will purchase clones. the major manufacturers should step up to the plate and do like they used to do make lower cost clubs along with their top of the line clubs.They will still make a profit and they will certainly have quality. Not cutting anyone down but the AVERAGE weekend recreational golfer can not play better with a top line club versus a clone or low cost club. I say make the game more affordable to the average working man

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