LAS VEGAS (CN) - By nearly anyone's standard, Ron Merrit has a very nice home. He should. He's chairman of the board of California-based Bond manufacturing, a family owned manufacturer and distributor of outdoor household products.
Merritt's home is so nice that the company uses it in its packaging and promotional materials for its products sold in hardware stores and national home-improvement chains.
When Bond's president, Cam Jenkins, saw images of Merritt's home used to market outdoor products during the 2013 National Hardware Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, it did not surprise him.
What did surprise him was that the images were used to market products made by a Chinese company that Bond once used to make many of its products.
That relationship had ended, but the Chinese company counterfeited and sold its knockoffs as genuine Bond products and displayed them at its own booth during the trade show.
Bond sued in Federal Court, managed to get the counterfeit products and materials seized and won a $7 million judgment.
Bond makes patio heaters, outdoor lighting, patio furniture, fountains, grills, gardening tools and other products. Its not the only company that has suffered from Chinese shenanigans at trade shows in Las Vegas, the world's top location for trade shows and conventions.
Las Vegas attorney Mark G. Tratos, with Greenberg Traurig, has handled intellectual property cases for more than 25 years and teaches law courses on intellectual property at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the Practising Law Institute. He helped Bond to fight the counterfeiting discovered during the National Hardware Show.
Chinese firms have been infringing on patents and trademarks for years, but enforcement has become more prominent recently, particularly at trade shows.
"As the economy started to come back, we've seen a greater emphasis on trade shows, and infringements have picked up," Tratos said. "When the corporations are doing well, they will increase their budgets for participating in trade shows."
Several other U.S. firms have gone to court recently to stop Chinese infringers of patents and trademarks at Las Vegas trade shows.
Toyo Tires obtained an injunction in November 2014 to stop a Chinese company from infringing on its trademarks during the Specialty Equipment Market Association's annual SEMA Show, the largest trade show for aftermarket automotive components. Federal marshals seized infringing products from a Chinese company that mimicked Toyo's trademarks, trade dress and logos.
HDMI Licensing, which owns patents and trademarks for HDMI cables used on HDTVs and computers, sued the owners of the annual InfoComm technology show, accusing InfoComm International of contributory trademark infringement and counterfeiting by knowingly and repeatedly allowing a Chinese company to display infringing products at its trade show.
Although it did not involve a trade show, the Las Vegas Sands in January won a $2 million judgment against unknown infringers of its trademarks to promote 35 gambling websites in Southeast Asia.
While many Chinese infringers have been accused and found guilty of infringing upon patents and trademarks, China does recognize and enforce intellectual property rights, although with varying degrees of success.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released an updated index of global intellectual property with many nations assessed. China showed slight improvement from the first report published in 2012, but the 2014 report indicates a great deal of improvement is needed.