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Eye-Openers on Counterfeiting

Counterfeiting, by its nature, depends on secrecy and misdirection. Shining a spotlight on the nature and methods of counterfeiting is one step toward battling the problem.

I’ve been covering this topic for 20 years, and there are still things that surprise me. Anti-counterfeiting efforts are being spearheaded by the best minds in the US government, by trade associations, manufacturers, sales channels, scientists, and technology companies… and yet, it remains a huge problem. Here are a couple new things I learned from last week’s Webinar on counterfeit components, sponsored by Rochester Electronics and EBN:

A component can be “authentic” and “counterfeit” at the same time
As odd as this sounds, the designation of “counterfeit” encompasses form, fit, and function as well as the device itself. For example, a chip manufactured prior to RoHS may be in a package containing lead. If the chip is removed and repackaged lead-free, the repackaged device under some qualifications would be considered counterfeit. Rochester Electronics director of quality Dan Deisz explains in EBN’s comment section:

    With regards to your question about not meeting specs enough to call a part counterfeit. Yes and no. It depends on the spec because the original part may not have met the spec either. We see this all the time with components controlled by source control drawings. If you do a comparative analysis (like we do at Rochester) on every single pin for every single parameter in a dynamic test environment on every replicated part, you have something on which to base the judgment. When it comes to products not governed by an SCD (standard product offering), [not meeting specs is enough to consider a part counterfeit] your statement is correct… most of the time.

Marking a part is just that — marking a part
I have long been under the impression that making a part with a unique identifier — such as DNA tagging or RFID — would solve the counterfeiting problem by proving the part is authentic. That’s not the case. Even if the original component manufacturer marks a part, that part can be manipulated later down the line. If a part is blacktopped or repackaged, the original device still exists, but now it is being misrepresented. Technically, it is a counterfeit. Additionally, if a part is sourced through unauthorized channels, many manufacturers will not honor its warrantee. Proving the provenance of a device is important, especially if it fails in the field. Deisz explains in an email:

    DNA tagging is not a solution for counterfeit. DNA tagging is simply marking a part. That marking is unique and technically elegant, but that marking bears no legitimacy toward being an authorized product. DNA tagging tells you nothing about product handling. It only tells you who marked the part at one point in time.

Check out the archived Webinar here. You may be surprised at the things you don’t know about counterfeiting.

9 comments on “Eye-Openers on Counterfeiting

  1. Nemos
    September 17, 2012

    “If the chip is removed and repackaged lead-free, the repackaged device under some qualifications would be considered counterfeit. “

    Maybe applicable rules like the above makes the things too hard and maybe strict rules generate more problems 

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 18, 2012

    I think we need to have a clear definition on what part should be termed as “counterfeit” and what part should be called as “Unfit”.

    In my opinion when a part is claimed to be meeting some specifications and actually not meeting them while in a circuit can be termed as counterfeit.

    A part whose specifications themselves make it unusable in a given circuit is not a counterfeit but is an “unfit”

    So wherever the supplier is trying to sell you a part claiming to meet your requirement specifications ( by faking the part number or giving false specification data) is a counterfeit.

    Many of the genuine parts are becoming “unfit” to use in todays circuits because of the new regulations such as ROHS.  But noway we can term these as Counterfeit.

     

    This mixing of “Counterfeit” with “Unfit” has to stop.

    Our fight should be against counterfeits and not against “unfit”s

  3. FLYINGSCOT
    September 18, 2012

    I agree that a part should be labelled counterfeit if it has been changed in any way from its original form and function as shipped from the original manufacturer.  Tampering in any way could lead to unwanted effects.

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    September 18, 2012

    @FLYINGSCOT,

    You are right, but can this be possible if we don,t encourage comple destruction of E-waste?

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 18, 2012

    Good point about “unfit.” It makes sense. That would help bridge the gap between “authentic” and “counterfeit.” Although those terms/parameters are confusing enough, I can see how a third category would work.

  6. SunitaT
    September 19, 2012

    but can this be possible if we don,t encourage comple destruction of E-waste?

    @Adenji, good point. I think if we completely destroy the e-waste it would become difficult for the counterfeiters to extract counterfeit materials from the e-waste. 

  7. SunitaT
    September 19, 2012

    In my opinion when a part is claimed to be meeting some specifications and actually not meeting them while in a circuit can be termed as counterfeit.

    @prabhakar_deosthali, but  what if the counterfiet product which is meeting specification while in a circuit ? 

  8. SunitaT
    September 19, 2012

    That's not the case. Even if the original component manufacturer marks a part, that part can be manipulated later down the line.

    @Barbara, thanks for the post. I am surprised to know that original component can be manipulated later down the line. Does it mean its totally impossible to distinguish between original and counterfeit parts ? How can we detect counterfeit if the device is blacktopped/repackaged when RFID is not reliable.

  9. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 19, 2012

    Tirlapur,

    but  what if the counterfiet product which is meeting specification while in a circuit ?

     

    As long a part meeting all the specifiactions on paper as well as in circuit has not violated any license or patent in its manufacture, then we should have no reason to call it a counterfeit in my opinion.

    In Automobiles many a second source suppleirs produce the components and sell them at much cheaper price than the original and people happliy buty them even after knowing that it is not original. Naturally the warranty period for such parts is much shorter.


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