NEC claims mainland producer making unauthorised speakers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2004, 12:00am

Niveous Audio & Video says agreement is valid and that it always manufactures 'according to the law'

Japanese electronics giant NEC alleges a mainland maker of speakers has appropriated its brand name to sell products.

According to NEC, Niveous (Huizhou) Audio & Video Technology produced about 600,000 pairs of speakers under the NEC brand without permission.

Niveous, based in Huizhou, Guangdong province, also wrongly claimed to be a contract manufacturer for NEC, the Japanese company said.

But a Niveous executive denied the charges. 'We always manufacture products according to the law,' he said.

Police raids on the mainland company's factories turned up 10,000 pairs of counterfeit speakers, NEC and its lawyers said. Documents seized at the scene suggested 600,000 pairs of speakers had been made and sold by Niveous over the past year.

A statement on the mainland company's website said that, as of August 2002, Niveous had had an agreement with NEC to design, make and sell NEC speakers.

But NEC denied these claims and said Niveous had never been authorised by it or any subsidiaries to make the speakers, according to Shirley Kwok Sum-yee, a partner at Vivien Chan & Co, which is representing the Japanese firm.

In May last year, NEC informed Vivien Chan that Niveous had published on its website claims it had a joint venture with NEC and the rights to produce NEC-brand speakers.

The law firm then hired private investigators, who found Niveous was manufacturing speakers under the Japanese brand at one of its factories in Huizhou.

By August, a complaint was lodged with the Huizhou Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC).

Initially, officials at the Huizhou AIC appeared unco-operative, asking detailed questions which slowed the process, Ms Kwok said.

The same day, Vivien Chan and NEC took the complaint to the provincial-level Guangdong AIC. The following day, Huizhou AIC conducted a raid on the factory, she said.

'We believe this is because the Guangdong AIC told them to do so,' Ms Kwok said. 'We had to have good guanxi [relations] with the right people in the Guangdong AIC before they would entertain us.'

In reaction to the charges, Niveous produced documents claiming it was authorised to produce the NEC speakers by Tohma Japan, a Japanese distributor for NEC, Ms Kwok said.

However, Tohma has issued a certified statement denying it had authorised any party to manufacture the speakers, she added.

A final ruling from Huizhou AIC has yet to be made.