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About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

Copyright: 1996 - 2024


    Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images and text used on the RF Cafe website are hereby acknowledged.

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Gray Market (Counterfeit Components)

Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. A wave of "gray market" components has saturated the supply chain that is causing both OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and CMs (contract manufacturers) to work overtime trying to separate the wheat from the chafe. Gray market parts are manufactured by shops that specialize in counterfeit products that are often times nearly indistinguishable from the genuine parts.

Sometimes the counterfeits work well, but often premature failure is experienced, and the unsuspecting OEMs and CMs are left having to honor warranties that were based on MTBF calculations and empirical lifetime testing performed using genuine components. In many instances, a failed component is returned to the manufacturer that supposedly provided the part, only to discover that it is a knock-off of something they make. The intended supplier loses money because some counterfeiter has part of his market share and the OEM loses money by having to service fake parts and suffer the bad public relations that results.

Ample reports come out of trade shows in China where salesmen (and saleswomen) brazenly canvass the floor with a basket of goods and a handful of fake labels offering to sell as many of the counterfeit parts as the prospective buyer needs - branded with the genuine company's logo. A couple years ago, an epidemic of gray market power supply capacitors caused massive damage; fires started in chassis, flying parts injured the unsuspecting users, electrolyte oozed out  of cans onto PCBs, and generally wreaked havoc. A lot of inventory was scrapped. Every few weeks we hear another report of counterfeit  cellphone batteries are still catching on fire. Vendors like Nokia have gone to placing holographic labels on their batteries to mark them as authentic.

A number of websites have popped up to track the gray market parts (1, 2, 3), but it is a monumental task. Although they admit that it is only an educated guess, the World Customs Organization estimates that counterfeiting accounts for 5% to 7% of global merchandise trade, equivalent to lost sales of as much as $512 billion in 2004. Seizures of the bogus parts by U.S. customs agents jumped by 46% in 2004. To put it in perspective, the total gray market for all goods, not just electronics, is believed to be larger than the total narcotics trade.

Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement | agmaglobal.org | Fremont, CA

AGMA's primary purpose is to mitigate gray market fraud and counterfeit trade of high technology products by implementing brand protection practices and controls that render the movement of unauthorized technology products difficult, undesirable and unprofitable.

Are Counterfeit Parts Going Compliant? | sourceesb.com/configurable/article20060111.html

From Source ESB.

Business Week Article | Fakes! The global counterfeit business is out of control, targeting everything from computer chips to life-saving medicines. It's so bad that even China may need to crack down.

CNET News.com | news.com.com/Net+tightens+gray-market+retail+vise/2100-1030_3-5628742.html?part=rss&tag=5628742&subj=news

Article - Net tightens gray-market retail vise.

Combating Counterfeiting and Grey Market - A Challenge for Indian Corporates | in.kpmg.com/TL_Files/Pictures/Counterfeiting In India(1).pdf

Information from KPMG International. 

Defending Against Counterfeit Electronic Parts and Gray Market Practices | rocelec.com/downloads/Rochester_Anti-Counterfeit_Paper_Jan2007.pdf

Information from Rochester Electronics.

Design Chain Associates | designchainassociates.com/counterfeit.html

866-322-7676 | San Francisco, CA

Article - Counterfeit Electronic Component Resources.

Electronic Business Online | reed-electronics.com/eb-mag/article/CA371012?pubdate=01/01/2004

Article - Don't get burned by bogus parts, by Barbara Jorgensen.

Elliott Sound Products | sound.westhost.com/counterfeit.htm


Article - Counterfeit Semiconductors with text and diagrams, by Rod Elliott.

IEEE Spectrum Online | ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1176509&isnumber=26410

Article - Leaking Capacitors Muck up Motherboards.

Fighting Back Against the Grey Market


From EDN.

GenuOne, Inc | genuone.com | 866-436-8663 | Boston, MA

Provides companies with the technology and the tools to distinguish undesirable but legal gray market from black market products.

Maxim - Dallas Semiconductor | maxim-ic.com/sales/counterfeit_parts.cfm

408-737-7600 | Sunnyvale, CA

Inferior Counterfeit Parts information.

The Electronics Source Book | sourceesb.com/configurable/article20050309.html

Article - Counterfeit components: Phony parts are clogging the supply chain.

The PC Guide | pcguide.com/buy/des/specGray-c.html

Article on Gray Market Components.

TransportGistics, Inc. | insourceaudit.com/WhitePapers/supply_chain_integrity.asp

Article - Supply Chain Integrity, A Basis to Upset Gray Market Distribution.

Understanding the Flow of Counterfeit and Gray Market Goods though the U.S. Automotive and Commercial Vehicle Parts Marketplace | mema.org/pdf/SRFlow.pdf

The Brand Protection Council of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.


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