Spotting Fakes

Jan. 11, 2008
Underwriters Laboratories estimates that more than $150 million in counterfeit products have been seized since 1995.

Underwriters Laboratories' zero-tolerance policy for counterfeiting is reinforced by its annual allocation of more than $2 million to protecting intellectual property. Part of the ongoing program is the annual training of law enforcement at ports of entry throughout the U.S. and Canada. UL estimates that more than $150 million in counterfeit products have been seized since 1995.

Spotting fakes from UL's perspective starts with recognizing the four basic elements of UL certification:

  1. UL's registered trademark.
  2. The words "Listed" or "Classified."
  3. Product identity describing the product -- optional if the UL mark is molded on the product.
  4. Proprietary four-digit alphanumeric control code or issue number, which is a sequence of numbers that may begin with one or two letters.
See Also

Fighting The IP Wars
Further evidence of products not legitimately UL-certified include:
  • Any product whose UL marking does not contain the four required elements of the UL certification mark.
  • Any product that references UL on the carton or the product, but has no company name, trademark, trade name or any other designation required for UL-certified products.
  • Cheap, low-quality workmanship or packaging.
  • Product packaging with numerous grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Legitimately certified products will generally include product manuals providing applicable safety warnings and instructions for use, care and maintenance of the products. Lack of appropriate documentation may signal lack of UL certification.
  • Legitimate manufacturers are proud of their products and want to hear from users. They commonly provide a toll-free number, Web site or other contact information that can be used to report a problem with a product. Lack of such contact information should put you on your guard, says UL.

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