Criminal. That's the word Underwriters Laboratories (UL) used to characterize the unauthorized use of its logo and the CommScope Systimax brand name on a box of counterfeit cable that was sold in China.
On April 2, UL issued an alert notifying contractors and distributors that a box of counterfeit Systimax Category 6 cable had been discovered. In an interview, UL's consumer safety director John Drengenberg told me, “We consider them [the counterfeiters] to be criminals, and we are very aggressive with counterfeiters. UL supports the prosecution of these criminals. We do everything we can within the law,” to put such counterfeiters out of business, he said.
The counterfeiting of Systimax brand cable and the UL marking is an affront to both organizations. Drengenberg stressed during our conversation that this discovery puts both those names in the headlines for unfortunate reasons, but there is nothing wrong with the Systimax brand name. In fact, it's the opposite. As he puts it, “Nobody counterfeits Timex watches; they counterfeit Rolex.”
As a practical matter, UL has an open investigation into the matter and intends to trace the cable back to its source. Doing so will not be easy. Drengenberg said a natural and logical question many people have is, how many boxes of counterfeit cable are out there? “It's like asking how many counterfeit $20 bills are in your hometown,” he says. “Counterfeiters don't keep records.” So, the single box of cable UL has recovered so far will not provide legitimate traceability of its origin. But Drengenberg ensures that UL has committed resources to the case and is taking it seriously.
Communications cable does not exactly fit the typical profile of products that UL frequently finds counterfeited. Higher-volume, lower-margin products, such as consumer-grade power strips, night lights, and decorative lights, are among the most frequently counterfeited items. For those and other products that are the most likely to be counterfeited, UL requires its mark to be holographic and thereby significantly more difficult to illegally duplicate.
While the discovery of a single counterfeit product does not raise Category 6 cable to the level of requiring holographic markings from UL, it was clear to me after my conversation with John Drengenberg that UL is not shrugging off this incident. “We don't take it lightly at all,” was one of his final comments to me.
None of us should.