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Locks and Security News: your weekly locks and security industry newsletter
11th September 2019 Issue no. 474

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The tale of the fake Rolex

By Victor Southern, Lockdecoders

Once upon a time there was a wonderful firm of Swiss watch-makers. So skilled were they that their watches became a symbol for quality.

Rolex! Who has not heard of them? Who has not desired one? So, it came to pass that in a land in the East men who had not acquired those skills found a way to make watches that looked like the wonderful Rolex.

The mechanisms were rougher and cheaper, the tick was louder, the hands moved erratically, the "gold" plate wore off but still the trademark Rolex would be on a wrist.

"See my Rolex" you could say, and "by the way can you tell me the right time?" A rusty "Bolex", not a trusty Rolex.

So a giant shadow industry exists producing fake watches, fake pharmaceuticals, fake designer clothing, fake sunglasses, fake diamonds, fake DVDs, fake software - an industry of theft, an industry that goes so far as to make fake pharmaceuticals to endanger lives.

Now let us consider the damage that this dishonesty causes. Let us look at our own industry of key-making & lock repairing. 14 years ago I wrote an article that was printed in Keyways magazine in which I forecast that most locksmith shops would eventually be unable to make car keys at all and all such work would end up with a limited number of specialists. I was partly wrong in that, as I had simply not taken into account the enormous effort and skill that would be put into solving these problems by many firms world-wide.

You know these names - AD900, Megacopy, ZedBull, Silca, Miracle, MiraClone, Abritus, Bianchi and many other others. Hundreds and hundreds of people have spent a cumulative two or three thousand years developing software and hardware to enable you to make car keys. The cost of development is staggering. In our case, Lockdecoders Ltd, we have spent from 2004 to 2013 in development and never made a penny from it all before 2011. Even today we spend more than a half of our collective time on development, on technical back-up, on ordering spares and consumables, on training, on factory visits. Apart from that we spend thousands of Pounds annually on buying new locks and lock-sets so that we can keep up to date with trends. And we are just one of the original developers in the field.

Very simply, the fake pharmaceuticals or rip-off medicines harm the drug research industry - why do colossally expensive research if everyone can copy it for nothing? You hear that antibiotics are becoming less effective and new methods of killing bacteria must be developed. No financial incentive - no new drugs. In twenty years time your children or grandchildren could be dying of diseases which today are still treatable. Nobody at all wants to see that happen.

It is pretty easy to understand the end cost to us all of pharmaceutical pirating. Perhaps it is less easy to visualise the effects of the big Chinese trade in rip-off locksmith machines and tools. Let me try to explain.

Although none of us in the field of locksmith supply are giants like "Big Pharma" we still have to do the investment of time, money and skills to keep up with the changing technical demands. If we cannot enjoy an eventual return on that investment we will stop new development, eventually fade way and in twenty years time no locksmith will be able to make a car key. It is that simple.

Even the buyer of the fake will not really profit by his "saving". He will not get the technical back-up, he will not find local spares [or perhaps any spares], he will have no source for training. Many purchasers of replicas have found they cannot be updated or even that an attempt to take advantage of the real manufacturers updates wipes the fake device clean. And, inevitably the quality, performance and durability of the rip-off will be much lower than the original. More to come - the cheap products suddenly become available to all - established locksmiths and key cutters, new entrants, professional thieves and hobbyists. So when you pay a Chinese firm for their rip-off you help them get close to someone who will take your established business away. Nobody is helped in the long run by people popping up on trade forums and boasting of their fake equipment and accusing respectable manufacturers of being rip-off merchants. Who is really ripping people off?

Particularly foolish are those that think they can make a killing by importing these fakes in some quantity for resale. They fail to realise that anyone else can compete with them by doing their own importing. Even worse their intended customers can import the same equipment at the same price directly and cut out the profit that the budding entrepreneur thought to make.

Many trade forums are now blocking any discussion of Chinese copies as the forum administrators are becoming aware that otherwise they are conniving in the theft of intellectual property and proprietary designs.

You may have noticed that the Chinese sites offering "genuine" car keys and remotes have suddenly become quiet and removed such products altogether. The car manufacturers are going for their throats. Have you had the guy who comes in for you to cut or programme the key he bought on eBay? Lots of fun isn't it? How do you feel about sites that offer to sell bump keys and picks to the public - even videos on lock -picking? It is actually a criminal offence to carry burglary tools but who is enforcing the law on those suppliers?

I have digressed a bit from the main thrust of my article but in reality it is all one problem. You and we are trying to make an honest and ethical living. We have that common interest. Just don't pay any money to crooks for their illicit copies.

15th January 2014




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