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Sat 3 Mar 2007 12:00 AM

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Calls for tighter patent laws

Over the last year 50 counterfeiters have been tracked down by S&B but taking action is not easy.

Patent procedures need to be tightened in order to crackdown on fake products infiltrating construction sites across the region, according to Paul Grundy, director of site fencing company S&B.

Grundy said that the company had lost US $2.7 million (AED 10 million) in turnover over the last year alone to rogue manufacturers of site fencings.

"And that's just the products we know have been copied," he said.

"We try and keep an eye on what's going on but with so much construction happening, it's difficult. Our designs are registered and patented here, but we have people trying to copy them all the time. We have hired lawyers to deal with it, which has also cost us a lot."

S&B has also faced problems with consultant engineers using its product drawings and issuing them as their own design, only for them to be manufactured at a cheaper cost.

Grundy said that such a process is not only costly to the company, but also reduces the lifespan of the product.

"Although we try and include non-disclosure agreements for issuing drawings, generally our drawings are issued quite freely to engineers," he said.

"We also get consultants measuring fencing we've put up and then producing drawings and specifications themselves - so they specify lower-grade materials than what is required and produce cheaply. What everyone does to reduce the cost is use thinner material, which reduces the lifespan by about 50-75% - you'll be lucky if you get one project out of it. Whereas our products are designed and marketed to last 5-10 years."

S&B has managed to track down around 50 counterfeiters over the last year, although it has not yet pursued any formal legal action.

"We issue letters from lawyers and this has generally been successful. But the patent office is very reluctant to do anything in terms of proceeding in court. So you have to issue a lawyer's letter, threaten as much as possible in the legal manner, and then go to the Chamber of Commerce who issue a letter against the counterfeiters too," said Grundy.

"The patent office here needs to tighten up on its procedures, especially if the UAE is trying to attract R&D companies to develop products in the region. You should be able to proceed without going through the whole rigmarole of the procedure as it is, which is very lengthy and time-consuming, but a necessary evil, unfortunately."

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