It is illegal and unethical to buy and sell counterfeit products, yet many well-known and respected distributors are doing just that and in so doing are also compromising the reputation of resellers with their customers.
The sale of fake projector lamps is on a rapid increase and has infiltrated legitimate markets in every country of the world. Many resellers are unwittingly buying and selling fakes without realising it because their reputable supplier has been similarly duped by their supply chain.
Spotting a Fake
Counterfeit lamps aren’t always easy to spot and often you need to have an original lamp in its box together with the fake to start to see the anomalies in cage design and manufacture, box construction, labels and general printing. When replacing a lamp you don’t have the old packaging and often a reseller will ship a lamp for the customer to install and therefore never have the chance to compare old and new.
From 3M to Zenith there are approximately 200 different projector brands known as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and nearly all of them buy their bulbs from a 3rd party. Even huge manufacturers like Sony, NEC, Samsung and Dell.
The bulbs are supplied by a select group of specialist lighting manufacturers that include household names such as Philips, Osram and Ushio. However, as well as making for the projector brands they also make bulbs for aftermarket customers such as Diamond Lamps. These latter customers buy bulbs that are identical in performance to the OEM bulbs but are intended to be packaged in their own branded boxes using cages they have developed for themselves as an alternative lamp to the OEM at a similar performance but a lower price.
The Issue #1 is that some aftermarket competitors to Diamond Lamps are producing their alternative lamps and then making replica boxes identical to those from Sony or NEC for example then selling it as a Sony or NEC lamp. Not only are they defrauding the original projector brand and breaking the law, but they are duping the resellers and their customers out of money by charging a much higher price than they would for their correctly boxed lamp.
The Issue #2 Other manufacturers of counterfeit lamps go for the cheapest solution possible and will fit any old bulb into a lamp they think will work, including second hand. Examples encompass counterfeit bulbs and compatible bulbs that give lower brightness and have a shorter lifetime. They can even be a fire risk.
Bulb Markings. Fortunately, most bulb manufacturers clearly mark their bulbs accordingly, so it is relatively easy to see if you have the correct lamp you purchased by checking the bulb marking – if you know what to look for.
There are seven companies that manufacture bulbs for the dozens of projector brands, each has a way of marking their bulbs and those that sell to the aftermarket mark them differently.
Phoenix Electric Co. Ltd
Can’t see the bulb markings
In roughly 50% of lamps the bulb markings are clearly visible, but some lamps either have the bulb orientated so you couldn’t read the markings without a dentist’s mirror. If the bulb orientation differs we would be suspicious as this is a rare practice and has been used to hide the markings from casual inspection.
Some bulbs are in enclosed units which require the lamp to be taken apart to see the markings. If you are suspicious, we suggest you experiment by taking the old housing apart until you can see the bulb markings. If this was straight forward and you can put the lamp back together again you could repeat it on the new lamp, however please be confident first. If you handle the new lamp, be careful not to touch the burner that sticks out the reflector as oily deposits on the quartz can cause hotspots and shorten the lamps’ life.
Beyond the bulb markings there are other ways to either identify a counterfeit lamp that are either conclusive or by the weight of evidence make you feel that you have a fake.
Most if not all of counterfeit lamps originate in the Far East and can take on many forms: –
- A compatible bulb in a copy cage in a copy OEM box
- A counterfeit bulb in a copy cage in a copy OEM box
- A genuine inside lamp in a copy OEM box
- One of the above lamps in a genuine OEM box
- A genuine OEM lamp inside a copy OEM box.**
- If you have the old and new lamp.**
** Note that the last two are made by splitting up a genuine lamp and its’ packaging to make two counterfeit OEM lamps.
If you have the old and new lamp
As well as checking the bulb markings, in most cases the plastic or metal ‘cage’ should be pretty much identical showing it came from the same molding tool. There are often tell-tale signs that the suspect lamp didn’t come from the same mould as the original lamp. E.g.
- 1 : Cut out a different shape.
- 2 : Text in a different font.
- 3 : Text inconsistent.
- 4 : Symbols are different in design and location.
- 5 : Markings from moulding machine should always be in the same place.
- 6 : Air grills should be the same design.
If you have two lamps from different sources
Are the boxes and packaging the same? The same weight of cardboard, the same shape of cut outs and folds. Labels should be identical as would instructions sheets even to be folded the same way. The lamps would have the same inner packaging.
With any rule there’s often an exception so these guidelines aren’t definitive and it’s often the number of discrepancies in the packaging and construction that lead us to identify a fake. If you’re unsure and would like guidance we are happy to help, just contact your local Just Lamps sales office with your concern.
What are the Risks
Counterfeit lamps will generally use low quality materials and manufacturing practices with lower levels of quality control, therefore companies who trade in counterfeit lamps are exposing projector users to a range of risks:-
Low Image Brightness – Inferior bulb quality will result in a duller image and uneven brightness across the screen with darker corners.
Poor Image Quality – Poor assembly with mis-aligned burners and the use of cheap lenses and light filters can result in washed out colour or colour imbalance across the image.
Shortened Lamp Life – Low quality bulbs and the use of the wrong specification bulbs with poor ventilation will lower the life of the lamp and maybe damage the projector.
User Safety – The goods may be poor quality and even dangerous. For example, although the bulb may be from a genuine source, the cage may not have been so rigorously designed. There have been instances of cages overheating, melting and projectors catching fire.
Recognising the Brand – Genuine manufacturers go to great lengths to make a quality projector backed up by a comprehensive warranty. Using a counterfeit lamp cheats the brand out of their return on investment and may invalidate the projector warranty..
Keep Genuine Traders in Business – Companies who sell counterfeit goods undercut the legitimate channel price. This means businesses that make or sell genuine goods can’t compete with the price.
Help Reduce Organised Crime – Sales of counterfeit goods often have origins that form part of large scale, organised crime.
Knowingly or unknowingly importing and selling counterfeit product is illegal under EU law as is the buying counterfeit product by a consumer. Although prosecutions are rare for buying product all acts involving the sale of counterfeit goods commit a criminal offence where prosecution can be brought about by the state rather than an individual, fines are significant and imprisonment possible.
What to do next
If you suspect you have been sold a counterfeit lamp.
Contact your supplier – There are a number of courses of action you can take, but in all instances, we would strongly recommend you speak to your supplier. The chances are they were unaware that they might be selling counterfeit goods and they will be keen to replace your item and address their supply problem. If they aren’t enthusiastic about solving the problem remind them that they are acting illegally.
When questioned, many suppliers will be assured by their sources that the lamps supplied are genuine and there are even fake Certificates of Authenticity from the factory in circulation. Unfortunately, you may need to be persistent and present them with evidence from this site to prove the point and for the sources to finally admit they have been shipping fake product to your market.
Complain to the projector manufacturer – If you wish to make the projector manufacturer aware of a counterfeit issue, most brands have local sales offices and there may be a contact point for complaints on their web site. The manufacturer should be concerned that counterfeit versions of their product are being sold and take an interest in who is selling them. If you are struggling to find a contact person, contact us and we will try to help with details.
Complain to the bulb manufacturer – The bulb manufacturer will be far removed from your transaction but will want to be aware of illegal practices involving their product. Their web sites should provide you a contact point, but we may be able to help if you are unsuccessful.
Contact Just Lamps – We cannot resolve issues you may have with receiving counterfeit goods but we are very willing to help you confirm if the goods are indeed fake and if you are struggling to escalate your concern we might be able to point you in a new direction.
Contact the authorities – As an illegal practice, the issue can be taken to the police. In some countries there are other authorities who take the main interest in counterfeit goods, some suggestions can be found in What are the Risks, but it may be best to do your own internet research.