Empire Level is working aggressively to stop counterfeiting of its torpedo level, aiming to block imported knock-offs at the U.S. border and pushing for removal of the counterfeit products from store shelves to ensure they do not end up in the hands of consumers. Companies found violating Empire Level’s intellectual property rights are being required to pull the look-alike products, make compensatory payments to Empire Level and, in some cases, destroy existing counterfeit stock.
Empire manufactures its torpedo level at its headquarters in Mukwonago, Wis., and has sold millions to construction professionals and Do-It-Yourselfers. The counterfeits originate in China. The family-owned company has issued dozens of cease-and-desist letters to Chinese suppliers, as well as U.S. distributors and retailers dealing in the counterfeits. In recent months, tens of thousands of the knock-off units have been taken off the market, with related advertisements stopped. Empire Level has launched more than 100 enforcement efforts – including more than one with major retailers—resulting in numerous quick settlements.
“Empire Level was built on innovation and hard work by many people, starting with my great-great-grandfather when he came to America for a better life, and I’m determined to protect the company from any threats to those American ideals,” said Jenni Becker, president of Empire Level. “This counterfeit activity is a direct threat to our economy and American jobs, including the jobs of our 200 employees.
Becker continued, “Our levels are made for maximum accuracy and extreme durability. It hurts our business and our brand when people purchase counterfeit products that don’t perform to our standards. We know some consumers have been deceived by ads for these junk counterfeits and it absolutely needs to stop.”
Counterfeiting is a huge issue for the American economy, as evidenced by the seizure of $1.26 billion in counterfeit goods at U.S. borders in 2012 alone. According to the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection, China remains the world leader in production of counterfeit merchandise, with 72 percent of all fake goods originating from that country. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that criminal networks and organized crime negatively affect nearly every product category, stealing market share and undermining innovation.
Becker advised, “If it’s coming from China, it’s not our torpedo level. That’s the first thing retailers need to know. Plus, retailers should always follow best practices of supply chain management and check out track records of suppliers that offer products at suspiciously low prices.”
Empire Level has strong relationships with its distributors and retailers in the 50 countries where its products are sold.
“We strongly encourage all retailers, as well as our fellow manufacturers, to do what we’re doing and fight back to discourage unscrupulous suppliers and sellers—both foreign and domestic,” advised Becker. “We especially want our story to serve as an example for other proud manufacturers of Made in U.S.A. products. Imported counterfeits are a problem, but we’re not defenseless. We can fight back intelligently and win.”
Consumer Reports suggests that American consumers also can do their part to spot and avoid phony products by avoiding suspiciously cheap products, doing an online search before they buy to find out if the company or the product may be linked to counterfeiting, and checking out all retailers—both online and traditional—with the Better Business Bureau.
Consumers can easily spot counterfeits of Empire Level’s iconic torpedo level by checking for Chinese origin. Another simple identifier is screws, visible on one side of most counterfeit units but not seen in the genuine Empire Level product. Also, when even lightly twisted by hand, most counterfeit units immediately squeak, crack or bend as they give way due to substandard construction; the genuine Empire Level product is comparatively sturdy.