Counterfeit Archery Products: Are You Buying Them?

Bowhunters who think they’re getting great “factory-direct” deals from online vendors might actually be buying counterfeit archery products that are dangerously inferior to the brand-name products they copied. And if legitimate archery manufacturers hope to curtail counterfeiters, they must make it easy for customers to report phony products they find online.

Those were the messages delivered in early January when William Ross, deputy director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, addressed about 80 manufacturing representatives at the annual ATA Trade Show.

buying counterfeit archery products hurts the archery industry and conservation efforts as well

Counterfeiters often copy brand-name bow sights, broadheads, stabilizers and other archery gear. Archers and bowhunters should buy from legitimate “brick-and-mortar” pro shops near home.

The ATA Trade Show is the archery/bowhunting industry’s largest event worldwide. It attracts over 625 manufacturing companies, and over 9,300 attendees representing retailers, distributors, suppliers and media from the United States and 26 foreign countries.

“Give (your customers) easy ways to report what they see and find,” Ross told the manufacturers. “Put a tab on your website they can click. Register your trademarks and copyrights. Work with our Customs and Border Patrol offices to show them your products so they recognize counterfeiting attempts.  “We need your help,” Ross continued. “Government (agencies) can’t do this alone. We can’t seize or arrest our way out of this problem. It’s everyone’s problem, and requires everyone’s awareness and cooperation.”

The IPR Center is part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations office. It works to protect U.S. intellectual property rights and enforce international trade laws. Ross said the IPR Center works with 23 partner agencies, including 19 federal agencies, Interpol, Europol and the governments of Canada and Mexico.

But even all that investigative power can’t thwart every person importing and selling counterfeit archery products. Ross said it’s challenging to monitor the United States’ 328 ports of entry, 325,000 importers and 100,000-plus miles of borders and shorelines. Further, those entry points process about 67,000 containers daily, 28 million cargo entries annually, and 250 million postal and express-carrier entries annually.

Federal agencies made 31,560 seizures on goods worth an estimated $1.4 billion in 2016, but it’s physically impossible to inspect and verify every item arriving from abroad. The internet increases those challenges. Ross said efforts to fight counterfeiters 15 years ago often meant sending sharp-eyed investigators to flea markets and swap-meets on spring and summer weekends to identify bogus goods.

But online sales in recent years generate shiploads of counterfeit archery products brand-name products from China, India, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong. In a 2017 interview, former ATA CEO/president Jay McAninch said studies of counterfeiting’s impact on the U.S. economy estimated that 87 percent of lost value came from products made in China, which accounts for 70 percent of all bogus goods.

China accounts for roughly $9 of every $10 in lost value by counterfeiting,” McAninch said. “It’s extremely difficult to enforce copyrights, trademarks and patents, and take legal actions in places like China.”

Those frustrations spurred the ATA Board of Directors in July 2017 to announce it would cancel the membership of any manufacturer caught counterfeiting, and banish the company’s representatives from attending its trade show. The ATA encourages archers and bowhunters to buy from local “brick-and-mortar” pro shops, and to avoid buying online from unknown vendors.

broadheads-on-shelf

Some counterfeit products look so authentic they initially fool legitimate manufacturers, who must inspect everything from clamshell packaging to the product’s tool-and-die marks, sometimes with a magnifying glass.

The ATA also directs its member-manufacturers to place the ATA logo on their products so consumers know they’re originals. Nonmember manufacturers that hijack the logo face legal action by the ATA to protect the logo’s integrity.

Meanwhile, the IPR Center has worked with regulators to sever over 300,000 links on social media that were once counterfeiting conduits. The Center also urges banks and credit-card companies to take down payment platforms of identified counterfeiters. Further, it asks the U.S. Post Office, UPS and FedEx to not process packages from identified counterfeiters.

Even so, fighting counterfeit archery products is difficult. Ross said counterfeiters are often skilled criminals whose imitations mimic authentic products and their packaging. They also target industries with high brand-name recognition and brand-loyal customers, and quickly shift their efforts to other products when they’re found out.

shooter-on-range

Counterfeiters are often skilled criminals who target industries with high brand-name recognition and brand-loyal customers, and quickly shift to other products when found out.  It’s important for consumers to recognize when they are purchasing real goods versus counterfeits in order to make sure they’re getting the high quality product they are paying for.

Some counterfeit archery products look so authentic they initially fool legitimate manufacturers, who must inspect everything from clamshell packaging to the product’s tool-and-die marks, sometimes with a magnifying glass. In other cases the phonies are obvious because they mismatch the product’s colors and logos, and misspell words on the packaging.

Counterfeiters also use photos of authentic products in online advertising, and price imitations just low enough to avoid suspicion.

“A few years ago you knew a product was likely counterfeit if it cost half as much as the real thing,” Ross said. “It was too good to be true. They’ve learned that if they sell a product for 10 percent off, people think it’s legitimate.”

McAninch said counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. When customers receive phony product and it fails, they blame the legitimate manufacturer. And when that manufacturer realizes it didn’t make the product, it often declines to replace it or refund the buyer’s money, which sparks suspicions, hard feelings and worse.

“One of our big concerns is safety,” McAninch said. “When you have people drawing counterfeit bows to shoot counterfeit arrows and broadheads from treestands made from inferior metals, something is bound to give at the worst possible time. It not only puts people at risk, but it increases the chances of wounding losses when arrows don’t fly straight or broadheads break on impact.”

In addition, because bogus products are often shipped direct to homes and businesses, and identified as gifts, counterfeiters pay no federal excise taxes on the products. That gives counterfeiters an unfair advantage over legitimate manufacturers, who pay up to an 11 percent tax on the sale. Those lost revenues also hurt state and federal wildlife-management programs that rely on FET funding for research, hunter education and shooting ranges.

Even so, not all customers care. They simply want low prices, and blame companies for being “greedy” or inviting problems by contracting with legitimate overseas manufacturers.

Consumers should realize, however, that knowingly buying counterfeit archery products is illegal. Manufacturers dislike suing customers, but they will if it’s their only hope for survival. The music industry, for example, cracked down on digital pirates about 20 years ago when it sued Napster and individuals who shared and downloaded music without compensating the artists and music publishers.

Patrick Durkin

Patrick Durkin

President at Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association
Patrick Durkin is a lifelong bowhunter and full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin. He has covered hunting, fishing and outdoor issues since 1983. His work appears regularly in national hunting publications, and his weekly outdoors column has appeared regularly in over 20 Wisconsin newspapers since 1984.
Patrick Durkin

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Comments

  1. Mostly everything I buy is from a Foreign country,not because I want to,but because I can’t find most of the products that should be MADE IN THE U.S.A. I think you can blame fair trade,and the lack of HONEST UNION workplaces.

    Reply
    • Les – completely understand your frustration with products sourced overseas but that’s a whole separate discussion. If you look hard enough, especially in the archery industry, there are a TON of great products made right here in the USA. From bows and arrows to broadheads and backpacks it’s not impossible to find USA-made products.

      Reply
      • Matt Stone says:

        My problem is that if a US manufacturer can price a 3 pack of broadheads for $40+ yet a factory in china or wherever can price a 12 pack of virtually the same Broadhead for $19. Who is really the crook?? The hunting industry as a whole has be come all about money. At one point hunting was the working man’s past time. It was a sport that was god given. Now days for someone to get into hunting and be prepared according to the “industry” you first need to take out a second mortgage. I will continue to buy cheap knock off broadheads from amazon. Simply as a slap in the face to the industry for making it about money. My rage knock offs drop’em just like a “real” one will. If it breaks so what iv got 11 more. If it only works once oh well……guess what? I have 11 more. How many people spend $15 or $20 a broadhead just for it to break or bend on the first animal it hits. If that makes sence to you then you can’t have a high level of intelligence are just have tons of money to throw away.

        Reply
        • Matt – you’re not looking at the whole picture here. The cost of producing a good is far more than just the manufacturing cost by itself. For US-based businesses that means the cost of employees – engineers and designers to innovate the product, sales and marketing to get people to buy it, logistics people to ship it, accounting people to handle the books and so on down the line. And don’t forget you need some sort of office to run your business from so you either own or rent one which means you have utilities, upkeep, property taxes, etc. And you most likely have to pay lawyers to help with things like patents and copyrights. Oh, and don’t forget insurance! Gotta pay for that too. And on top of all that if you’re an archery equipment manufacturer (broadheads, arrows, rests, sights, etc.) you also pay an 11% FET tax per the Pittman Robertson Act which goes to funding conservation. All of those things add up to one big cost of doing business and are a major part of why products cost as much as they do.

          Now if you’re the China-based counterfeiter you don’t really have any of those costs. Someone else did all the heavy lifting – paid the engineers to come up with the idea and build it, paid the marketing team to create a brand and a product that people wanted to buy, don’t employ any sales people since they sell online, and we all know the cost of living in China is a fraction of what it is in the US due to the often 3rd world conditions they live in. And let’s not forget they don’t pay taxes in the US, don’t have employees who pay taxes or buy into anything that supports the US economy, so all of that hard earned money you’re spending is leaving this country as quick as you can send it to them for those super-awesome counterfeit products. Which, again, is illegal.

          But to address your main gripe – yes, the hunting business is about making money. That’s kind of the point of being in business. I assume you have a job which pays for things like your house, insurance, food, and other items. That job you have can’t pay you unless it’s making money. So if someone was illegally stealing from that business and putting your livelihood in jeopardy I assume you’d feel differently. Saying that a business who is profitable and in the business of employing Americans, paying taxes and contributing to our prospering economy is a “slap in the face” certainly isn’t something I’d expect from someone possessing your “high level of intelligence”.

          Reply
  2. Todd Jaramillo says:

    Well I don’t see them going after eBay that sells a lot of stuff from China and amozon or a couple of other websites.there blaming a working man or some one that can’t really afford some stuff from the main company’s from here.some times this stuff for archery is expensive, so if you see it cheaper of course your going to buy it,you got sights arrow rest arrows broadheads and a lot more stuff here in the US that’s 60 to 200 even 300 dollars ,specially arrows that are 10 to 13 on up for one arrow that do break,AND broadheads that BREAK OR YOU LOOSE WHEN HUNTING OR PRACTICE. And 80% of us aren’t getting the product free to try out before you pay 50 on up to try out Or have a hunting show.where they give them to you for and get to try it out,it’s a expensive hobby to be trying out stuff.so good luck company’s I am actually with you guys not against you. But I been shooting archery for 21 years believe me I wasted 1000 and 1000 of dollars till I found out about eBay and amozon where it was way less expensive to try out, another words you guys products are a little to expensive. Than you

    Reply
    • JOHN RICHEY says:

      Dude, we are talking about companies that are counterfeiting other products. That’s crooked and wrong, how could you, in good conscience, be with them? We should all want to do and support what is right. Forget about the money.

      Reply
  3. Caleb Horst says:

    I am very against counterfeit parts. I bought some supposedly “Rage” broadheads on ebay. Not doin that again.

    Reply
  4. JOHN RICHEY says:

    I think the archery industry does a pretty good job of manufacturing in the United States. We need to continue to improve on this, but it’s not in real bad shape. One of the most important reasons to not buy counterfeit, is to not support a crook. There are a ton of good USA made archery products that are very competitively priced.

    Reply

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