Recent Developments in the Fight Against Counterfeit Passive Components

Much of the focus in the challenge of counterfeit electronic components in recent years has been on semiconductors and their vital role in the electronics manufacturing ecosystem. Yet passive components are also prey to counterfeiters. Manufacturers are getting tough in identifying counterfeits through a variety of initiatives. Customers are becoming more aware of the risks: if a component is not purchased through the authorized channel, manufacturers do not warranty the quality.

SOURCE: TrustedParts Blog

Donnie Boatright – Murata

Donnie Boatright

“Potential customers and those involved in the industry have become more knowledgeable and aware of the inherent risks associated with purchase of product that does not come directly from an authorized sales agent,” explained Donnie Boatright, Corporate QA Manager at Murata. “I believe that customers are better recognizing this risk — and in some cases unfortunately experiencing the consequences of not purchasing directly from an authorized sales agent – which has helped reduce the number of incidents.’

Boatright says that typically capacitors or inductor products are most vulnerable since they are more commonly used across many industries, so they have more potential customers. “In the past, Murata would see this issue come up periodically, usually in the course of investigating a reported failure,” he continued. “When a failure is reported, we confirm as much as possible about the part, packaging, labeling, and from whom the parts were purchased. Collecting this type of background information is very important and can help determine authenticity. This approach has helped practically eliminate failure claims reported to Murata that involve suspect counterfeit product.”

Christopher Vetch – Molex

Christopher Vetch

Christopher Vetch, VP of Quality at Molex, takes a similar approach. “At Molex, we take the issue of counterfeit products very seriously,” he said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that our customers receive only genuine Molex products that meet our high quality and reliability standards. We have implemented a number of measures to prevent the sale of counterfeits, including:

• Educating our customers on how to identify and report potential counterfeit products to us.

• Conducting regular audits of our supply chain to ensure that materials or components are sourced from reputable suppliers.

• Marking or labeling our products and/or packaging with identifiers such as ‘Molex’ or ‘MX’

• And most critically, ensuring our products are only sold through select sales partners and distributors.”

Ralf Duckec – ebm-papst Group

Ralf Duckeck

At ebm-papst Group, Ralf Duckeck, Vice President Intellectual Property, said we must be more proactive in identifying and shutting down counterfeit operations. Working with the government and private investigative agencies, his team has developed a two-pronged approach: an automated identification program and working with the Standard Trade Union (STU) China to find evidence and shut down counterfeit operations.

“We now use Corsearch to comb the internet and find fake products sold on online platforms, mostly from China,” he explained. “Corsearch is trained to recognize our fans and motors from photos of products sold online. In the past two years Corsearch has found and deleted 160,000 fake ebm-papst offers.”

Corsearch was able to identify some offenders easily. “Repeat offenders try to hide their activities,” Duckeck continued. “After a couple of months, they would hide parts of the pictures. For the most part, they don’t understand what is written, so there are typing errors, color errors, wrong US patent numbers, and much more that I don’t want to reveal.”

Initially, Duckeck’s team tried to get one sales platform to shut down offending websites, but that was not successful. They wouldn’t delete these accounts. “It should be the responsibility of the internet provider to prevent repeat offenders,” Duckeck lamented. “Some of them are ridiculous. I tried to close them down with the help of their service. I got a fake account, but it was not effective.” It was the same with other online platforms. Even if the account was deleted, it would pop up again with a different name. Hopefully, in the future this will work better, at least in Europe with the now (March 2024) in place European Digital Markets Act (DMA). The platform providers are responsible for controlling who is offering what on their service or market. Repeat offenders should be automatically blocked on their access to these platforms.

The fake fans were often taken from old equipment and sold as new. The 160,000 products they found were mostly small fans from old systems; they were still working but were not reliable.

They also found examples of counterfeit motors that were not genuine – built completely differently than ebm-papst motors but labeled as genuine.

While some of the counterfeiting is coming through Malaysia, and fake documents are showing up in Thailand, most of the fake products come from China, Duckeck says. Customers find these fake products when they buy replacement parts through the internet. This happened, for example, during the pandemic when medical equipment suppliers ramped up production of ventilators.

Counterfeiting is illegal in China. They now have a social scoring system to enable the government to control the problem. Shop owners will be restricted if they have received too many negative points. “I had one incident two years ago where we knew what was going on, but we couldn’t find evidence to hand over to the government. The counterfeiters are getting more careful. We engaged with Standard Trademark Union (STU) China, a trademark enforcement company that has experience in counterfeit luxury goods. Now they are working with our industry. With their help, we were able to collect evidence, by going through the dustbins, finding the right addresses, and conducting a raid of the premises. It was very successful.”

What can customers do to ensure they are buying genuine components? Duckeck was perfectly clear. “Don’t buy parts through the internet. There is a new fake market developing. They have stopped selling overruns and easily identified mislabeled products. Now it’s copies that are much too good and stay around much longer than before, with fake pictures and fake documentation.”

Donnie Boatright from Murata was more explicit. “Murata suggests product purchases be done only through authorized Murata sales agents. This is the only way customers can be assured that product is authentic, warrantied, and within desired specifications.”

Murata has had customers requesting that they validate products either prior to or after purchase from a non-authorized sales agent. To do this, 100% of the parts must be unpackaged or unreeled and then put through an outgoing inspection process. “This is not a feasible activity for customers or suppliers. We have seen examples where the first few parts on a reel may be authentic, but the balance of the reel is not. We have also seen counterfeit Certificates of Compliance; in fact, in one such example a CoC was supposedly signed by an employee that had retired five years prior to the date on the Coc. This validation process is prohibitive for all involved.”

Molex asks customers who suspect they have purchased a counterfeit product to please contact them immediately. The entire electronics manufacturing community must work together to ensure the electronic products we depend on in nearly every aspect of our lives are made with genuine, high-quality components. Fundamental to that effort is buying only through the authorized channel. is the only safe online component aggregation platform that verifies that every component sold in every geography is from an authorized source. “With the number of counterfeit components increasing, the risk to supply chains by procuring products outside of the authorized channel is growing exponentially,” concluded Victor Meijers, Sr Vice President, ECIA.

TrustedParts x A

About The Author