Copycat Counterfeiters Raising Exhibitors' Hackles

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At least one Dealer Expo exhibitor says he's spent most of the weekend guarding his booth against potential counterfeiters.

John Burns, CEO and president of Team Joyner USA, says since Friday night he's personally kicked out other exhibitors taking detailed pictures of his sand rails, UTVs and other products. The problem has gotten so bad, Burns says, he's had security out to his booth in the RCA Dome to watch for offenders.

It hasn't just been this weekend either, says Burns. He's run into the problem with new Asian manufacturers copying his product in the past. In fact, he points out, another exhibitor in the Dome is carrying a copy of one of his vehicles. Prior to the show this weekend, Burns learned that one of his off-road vehicles was air-freighted to China to be copied.

"I have been inundated and aggravated for the last two years," says Burns, whose products are carried in 150 dealerships. "It's out of control."

During a conversation with a reporter, Burns had to excuse himself from the interview to confront another exhibitor taking photos of the rear suspension of one of his vehicles. Burns positioned himself in front of the man's camera, checked his name badge to confirm that he was an exhibitor and then shooed him away from the booth.

Dealer Expo officials acknowledge that Burns' issue is a problem that has worsened over the last couple years, and urged exhibitors to be vigilant about unauthorized activities.

The problems this weekend emerged in reports of people lurking around Burns' booth Friday night, lifting the covers on two new vehicles and taking pictures.

There were even rumors among some showgoers that an enforcement officer from the Environmental Protection Agency was walking the show looking for counterfeit EPA certifications and other infractions.

Alex Gorokhovsky, general manager of CAO Distributing, in the booth across from Burns', says he ran off several people he saw crawling underneath one of the vehicles taking pictures and measurements. There were also people opening new boxes of product literature and dealer price sheets, publications that attending dealers hadn't even had a chance to read, Burns says.

"We know we're a target for companies to copy &#8212 but damn it, we invented these vehicles ourselves," Burns says. Now, other companies are ripping off all of their hard work, he says.