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Chinese knock off's - Copies - replicas

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We all know who the big guys are in the lighting manufacturing industry Robe, Clay Paky, Martin, Vari lite, Ayrton and the list goes on.


I would like to know peoples views on Chinese knock off's, copies or replicas of certain lights made by the companies above. Please discuss.


I am researching for my Dissertation in university so any views would be much appreciated.

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For research surely you need some parameters? what do people think? No use whatsoever without context.


I have a budget set aside each year to buy equipment - actually sound and lighting, but no strict division. I have stopped buying the name brands because they're simply too expensive for the use they will get. I was a staunch anti-counterfeiter and had a disdain for Chinese equipment, but now, it's pretty well all I buy.


I also think you have not researched the subject very well, because as far as I have seen there are a few counterfeit controls - mainly Avo, but no counterfeit moving heads. What there are, are plenty of designs that do many of the same things, but they're not knock-offs, copies or replicas. The Chinese have looked at washes, beams and profiles. Much of what they produce appears similar but really isn't, and as far as I can tell, there are few patent infringements. The B-eye is a good example. The Clay Paky's have clever beam collimators that transmit the light to the lenses. The Chinese ones have a rotating lens front, with the LEDs directly underneath. The difference is pretty obvious in what the things actually do because of the differences in design, so you couldn't replace a real B-eye in a spec with the Chinese one because the light is very different. The rotating lenses create very narrow beams as the lenses pass by, so it's a fairly neat effect, but they're useless at washing anything. The others types use pretty similar internals, and I just can't see the direct copying at all. They've moved on, and are producing interesting products.


For me, it means a much bigger inventory for the money. I can buy lots of chinese kit or maybe a couple of big names. The dozen zoom LED washes have been the most useful things I have bought in years, and while there's a superficial resemblance to Robe, thats just because the front is a disk with circles- that's it.


Your dissertation seems doomed as you appear to be imagining something that doesn't exist?

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Thank you for your comments I defiantly agree with some of your view there but I wouldn't be so quick to say I was imagining something that doesn't exist. I happen to find it very really and something is happening more and more. without the creation of the really products the Chinese manufactures wouldn't have anything to get the idea from. for example robe make the pointe and a company called art fox seem to go to great extents to make there product look just like a pointe, even down to the promo video that they have created for it. anther one, clay paky make the sharp and countless companies are reproducing that to look exactly the same as the sharpy. and my final one it a lighting console, MA lighting have been ripped of with a copy of both their hardware and software and the company who make that happen to make cloth of other products looking the same as the big companies make.


from my point of view I feel id defiantly exists.


I have research this subject quite extensively I happen to be I contact with one of the Chinese manufactures and I do intact have some of there fixture, you plug them in to a lighting console with the pointe fixture profile and they run exactly the same as a pointe would it may have a few different gobo's but other than that you couldn't tell them apart looking at their arial effects.further more I have been in contact with many other chinese manufactures, I've been in contact with people who have bought them and used them as hire stock.


yes I can see where your coming from and I can see that there is probably going to be a very split view about this.

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what product names have I put incorrectly? as for my grammar I can only apologise as I am dyslexic.


If you're going to be writing a dissertation on this subject then you might want to put a bit more effort in to basic grammar and getting the names right of the products you're writing about as I'm struggling to understand much of what you're writing?

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What is your research question? Without that nobody can help you. Paul has laid out the reason why he buys Chinese sourced equipment - and if your research hypothesis was that 'the majority of buyers buy on price if the cheaper is good enough' this might well be useful evidence for you. You really have to make clear what question you are trying to answer. If you haven't got such a clear and unambiguous research question or hypothesis it's back to square one I'm afraid.
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My questions are as follows:


How does the use or fake/copied/replica fixtures impact our industry and how does it impact those who are making the real products?


Given the choice of real or fake products what are your view as an individual for purchasing lights and what is your view if you were purchasing for an establishment?


Do you believe that the alternative manufactures of lighting products are in the wrong for what they are producing?

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Please - many of us have a history in education, and we're very aware of the problems of dyslexia. We also have at least two members who are severely dyslexic and you cannot tell because they take the time to check their posts before hitting the button. You are making very little sense in some sentences - the grammar is all over the place, and this makes ineteraction pretty tough, because we're not quite sure what you are saying.


You used the phrase

Chinese knock off's, copies or replicas

The beam lights you have experience of are a good example. They have no branding claiming to be the Pointe, or call them Robe. So they are not knock-offs and certainly not counterfeit. The outside is not the same in terms of design style either - just a black box built around pretty standard internals - so it's not a replica. For a Degree, terminology needs to be precise.



As I said, the internals are very rarely the same - just what they do. The Chinese are very good at copying designs and control systems. A typical mover can do a limited range of things - and personally it would make life easier if they used a common standard for what is on each DMX channel. One of the designs I use actually allows you to swap them around, so no doubt somebody looks at the available data on say a Clay Paky sharpy. The DMX chart shows what the unit does, so why not follow it. Some features won't be included if they are non-standard. A Sharpy is what? A mover with a very narrow lens? Inside, they have some pretty nice optics, but apart from colours and gobos. what else is there? So the Chinese light is a similar, but not identical product.


I can't see that for a dissertation there is any factual content, just a mismatch of opinions?


I don't believe it has any impact. I cannot afford a dozen Pointes or Sharpys - I can afford a dozen Chinese ones. You will hear the manufacturers complain about their huge sums spent on R&D, which is a fair point of course. However, the Chinese just make them. A few years ago at Plasa a new loudspeaker design was on show. Three days later one Chinese stand had one - made from photos and the leaflet. Didn't sound the same of course - but that's not what they do best, is it? Counterfeiting is bad. There used to be loads of counterfeit Sennheiser radio mics on the market, but now, they've started marketing these as proper brands. The receivers and transmitters still look vaguely Sennheiser, but they now have different back panels, simpler in design and different knobs on the packs - the quality is good, and now they're legal to buy and legal to use, being on our channels not random ones!


Have you noticed that from more than 50m, it's really hard to tell some cars apart. The weird 'cactus' car, is now not on it's own with similar ones from other manufacturers. They all have the indicators on the same side, their gears in the same order, their new displays in the same place. Many are so similar you need to look for the labels to see what make it is? Is this bad?


Even worse when you look at 4x4 pickups - they've all copied each other!


You mention purchasing for an establishment. The advice would be to buy more than you need. Chinese equipment has VERY short shelf life. I bought another 6 of a unit 6 months old. They sent me a bag of gobos and colour wheels because they changed them, so they didn't match. The colour wheel also ran in reverse order. Spare parts are tricky too - a new power supply for a one year old light might be unavailable, or just different. Dual 24V rather than dual with a shared negative? So if you MUST have six, order 7 or 8, and then use them, or store them. Right them off on the books after two or three years and that is that.


re: the dyslexia - you need to check for missing or added letters 'really instead of 'real', and the microsoft regular 'defiantly' rather than 'definitely' - that's amazingly common but funny to read because it makes you sound angry! Watch out for missed 'ed' on the ends of words too. Nothing you couldn't have sorted!

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Thank you very much for sharing that information with me. Yes I agree that I could check my spelling and grammar a bit more, I will keep that in mind for future posts and comments.


So you personally would chose to buy the cheaper alternative compared to the real thing?


Do you believe that because of the money that the big companies spend on research and development that, that get added on to the purchase price?



May I also ask why you feel I have inadequate content for my dissertation?

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The problem is that your premise seems shaky to start with. You've assumed a great deal - that the Chinese products are knock offs etc etc. The correct terminology would help. Are we talking about Intellectual property theft, passing off, or specific patent infringement? Not quite the same thing is it. If the fancy Clay Paky colimator design has been stolen, then clearly the product would fall into a different category. Imitation is also a cultural thing. Their outlook would be different. Lots of these products do the same jobs, almost.


When you look at something like Stricty on TV, and the usual X-Factor, BGT and the Voice, you see hundreds of very expensive pieces of kit. When the LD creates those amazing things we see, in many cases, it's sheer quantity of equipment that makes it special. 4 Pointes doesn't really cut it. Throw a quantity of Chinese ones at a band and it looks pretty good. Maybe the beams aren't quite so precise and the other clever technical advances inside are absent - but the job is done, and it's just a cheap product working within it's capabilities.


When AC Lighting had their own range of discharge lights made, they looked rather similar to Mac 250s and 500s. Nobody that I'm aware of accused them of counterfeiting, or making knock-offs?


For your dissertation you'll need evidence and data. Where will it come from? Surely all you have are opinions, and that's not robust or reliable content.


You have formed your opinion already, and clearly are now trying to validate it. You will downplay comment that doesn't fit, and put weight on views that support your own. You can;t say you won't, because it always happens.


Sorry - forget the R&D thing. R&D is the component the big companies use to justify their high prices. Try a bit of reverse thinking. If your initial opinion is correct, then the Chinese companies are producing equipment that is very close to the big boys - but at 10% of the price, and shipping it half way around the world? This would mean that the physical construction costs of the product are much less than the selling price - the difference is of interest to shareholders and for recouping R&D. You won't get evidence for this bit! There is some similarity with pharmaceuticals - remember when the license on Paracetamol ran out and the price dropped from £3 a packet to 30p? The price difference was explained away as R&D recovery, but few believed it!


The Chinese, on their unique products don;t seem to do much R&D. They simply sell them and use the public. They then redesign what needs redesigning and move on. They can do this very quickly - design to production in almost hours. Some products are flawed, others have a mk1,2,3 and 4 process within a few months. EU firms seem to tinker for ages - I have no proof of this, but sometimes they announce a product, then it appears a year later!


Many LED fixtures use common components. LED clusters of 4 or 5 colours in a package. design a pcbs with individual package controls and then stick some lenses in front. A Power supply, servo drive board and LED driver board and that's about it. What takes so long? The flaws in the Chinese ones are often in the posh ones too!


Robe and Clay Paky, along with Martin could easily produce cheap, as in dirt cheap equipment - but they prefer to stay at the exclusive end, remove the hassle of selling two or three via loads of dealers to complaining consumers - they'd rather sell a bucket load to the big hire companies. Different products for different markets.

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Taking the research questions in order:


1. Lacks a definition. Paul outlines I think correctly the difference between branded and generic goods but it is as well to be clear just what a fake is. It is a definite attempt to pass something off as the genuine article right down to the box and documentation. Fakes are widespread in all sorts of consumer goods where there are wide enough distribution channels to allow such items in. I can assure you that at first glance it would take an expert to know the difference. It is claimed that 35% of the branded toys on sale in UK are fakes. I would be astonished if large numbers of fakes were on offer in our industry, it is too small and the end users too knowledgeable. (I'm referring to the brands you mention) Copies are different and provided there is no attempt to deceive the end user as to brand it is up to the brand holder to decide what they want to do about their intellectual property. Fact is though when you are designing a piece of kit to do the same job by and large they end up looking the same anyway - take the similarity of virtually every 500W Fresnel a few years ago. Unless you can prove there is a real problem with actual fakes and passing off in this industry you need to think about this question again.


2. Taking the points made in number 1 here you are really talking about purchasing choices and again nothing has changed. Forty years ago institutional buyers were faced with three choices Strand, Furse and Major all selling the same range often with basically the same optics in one case with the same casting. In educational settings Strand made little headway and indeed they often looked as if they didn't want to. Furse won most tenders here - though Major were favoured by one or two authorities. It was a trade off between investment in little used equipment and price. Professionals went to Strand and paid a premium. With Furse you got something that would do you a job at a more attractive price. Paul has outlined his reason for purchasing Chinese equipment and if I was buying today for kit that was going to be hung and seldom moved I might well do the same.


3. If they are buying a rival's product stripping it down seeing how it works and using the ideas, ethically it might be dubious but it's what everybody has always done. I have a contact who sells Siemens Earing Aids. Her reckons they have six months with any new development before rivals come up with their version. If they were making an exact copy and passing it off yes this would be wrong and also criminal, if they didn't bother to make it safe again ethics come into it. But as for taking basic principles and applying them to a product under another name with no attempt to pass off it's called business. Here the points made by Paul re R&D are the key.


In dealing with these issues one of the problems is seeing the far east manufacturing world as homogeneous. Next week I am covering the Toy Fair and as usual I will hear tales of Chinese attending early doors cameras clicking or - as has happened in the past - simply lifting new products and making away with them. On the other hand many of the brands I'll talk to have relationships with far eastern factories they are perfectly happy with. It's all far more complex than it might seem at first glance.

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Roger mentions in point 1 fakes, it was mentioned on here a few years ago and is still a problem that there are fake, deliberate counterfeit items, procells being one, with poor quality leaking battery's. I imagine there are small throw away items that are everywhere.


For "copys" or what ever the term will be, looking at a Rush mh3 mh6, a pointe and a sharpy, there are not many external changes that you could notice, I am sure close up you can see those changes but they are very similar in design imho. Who did it 1st ? were they all being developed at the same time or did y bring out their one 2 months after x did ?


What point is a copy a copy? We have a bunch of display lights, pretty much a copy of the s4 par shell it might even be exactly the same mould and everything, it just has a CDM lamp in it and a ballast strapped to the top. Is that a copy or not? to anyone else that looks like a source 4 par.

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  • 3 weeks later...

IME, the main problems are not counterfeit lanterns or other relatively complex products.


Some products are a bit similar, but different enough IMHO to be called an alternative and lower cost product, that might be suitable for some applications, but not really a copy or fake.


IME the real problem is lower tech items that are seldom examined closely or given much thought. Things like 13 amp plugs without fuses, or flexible cables of much less than the claimed size, or lithium batteries and chargers that catch fire, or as recently discussed elsewhere on these forums, an LED light that appears to have exposed line voltage connections on the back ! Some of this rubbish could kill, yet it appears to be widely sold, purchased and used.




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  • 8 months later...

Bit of a bump, but: I just spent a merry evening (waiting for a movie to finish) going down the rabbit hole of what the Chinese manufacturers have on sale. I was particularly interested by the DMX consoles. They seem to LOVE the Avo Pearl for some reason.


If I had money to burn, it would be fascinating to see what these console do and don't actually do in comparison to the ones they copy. We should club together and send them to Clive...


Also interesting were the products that are based on actual products but with a twist. For example, one seller was selling a console that was basically the MA on PC programmer wing, fader wing and two touch screens all in the same case.

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