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HP targets counterfeiters in Asia

The printer maker works with authorities to clamp down on bogus LaserJet and inkjet products, leading to more than 30 police raids.

SINGAPORE--What began as complaints from dissatisfied Hewlett-Packard customers and resellers has led to swift action against alleged racketeers in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and China.

In the last nine months, HP has helped authorities clamp down on alleged counterfeiters of its LaserJet and inkjet products in Asia Pacific, an effort that has led to more than 30 police raids.

Among the equipment seized were counterfeit HP inkjet and toner cartridges, counterfeit packaging and some machines used in the manufacture of these products, said an HP spokesperson.

He could not provide the street value of the seized goods by press time, but noted that almost all the cases have resulted in prosecution. He declined to elaborate, as some cases were pending further investigation.

Some common legal penalties for counterfeit offenses include imprisonment, fines and a revocation of trading or business license, depending on the country and the circumstances surrounding the case.

Most prosecution cases against counterfeiters originate from a simple telephone call to HP's customer support centers.

"We receive between 100 and 300 anticounterfeit-related calls to our worldwide hotlines and service centers every month...and of this, Asia Pacific sees about a dozen complaints," the spokesperson said.

Each report is investigated and the appropriate legal action taken, he said.

In May, HP introduced improved tamper-proof inkjet cartridge packaging that incorporates a security label with a color-shifting ink feature. When viewed face-on, the HP "invent" logo on the security label appears in color; viewed at any other angle, however, the logo appears in black.

HP has been replacing its older cartridge packages in line with stock turnover on a market-by-market basis, he said.

It is still too early to tell whether the number of complaints has fallen since the new packaging was introduced, he said, but "we are confident that the anticounterfeit features on our new product packaging will go a long way to deterring potential counterfeiters."

Similar security labels are expected to be available for HP's LaserJet toner cartridges in coming months.

In an interview in May, HP's Asia-Pacific supplies-business manager for the consumer-business organization, Veronique Malan, said she expected the new packaging to "affect our bottom line positively" as the company recaptures market share from counterfeiters.

She declined to reveal the losses incurred due to such fraud but noted that illegal sales tend to be prevalent in "bigger" countries such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Last November, the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation raided several companies, seizing "large quantities" of counterfeit toner cartridges, following a tip-off from HP.

In Singapore, the last raid was conducted in 1997, when over 20 counterfeit HP ink cartridges were seized from PK Computers at Funan Center, according to HP.

CNET Singapore's Michelle Tan reported from Singapore.