I cruised on over to BMR Fabrication's website this weekend to look for some suspension parts for my recently-purchased '96 Buick Roadmaster (that's another topic all together), and in the process of browsing my way to a 38mm rear sway bar, I stumbled across an interesting article on the flood of counterfeit and knock-off aftermarket parts from overseas suppliers.
There seems to be a few different angles to this particular concern. First is the issue of outright counterfeiting; that is, manufacturing a part and putting someone else's name on it. This practice is illegal and immoral, but it's often difficult to enforce those laws. Slightly more difficult to wrap one's head around is the issue of knock-off parts, which strongly resemble name-brand products but don't necessarily violate any trademarks or patents. Spend just a few minutes on eBay, and one is likely to run across all sorts of knock-off parts that appear to be the equivalent of components from "big name" manufacturers such as Edelbrock, Holley, and MSD - but the imitation parts sell for significantly less.
Every time one of those parts sells, it takes money out of the pockets of the companies that have spent time and money to develop the originals. In many cases, such parts are vastly inferior, but to be perfectly honest, there are some situations where a knock-off part is either of similar or even better quality, or offers a particular configuration that isn't available from a mainstream company. Especially with regards to that last point, it then becomes difficult to call these parts "knock-offs", and they take on a life of their own. When this starts to happen, it's clear that the best response from domestic manufacturers will be to innovate new product, and not to depend on jingoism and a reputation earned long ago to protect them from competition. In the meantime, we strongly suggest that you not reward companies for ripping off designs - or we'll all suffer the consequences.[Related: Congress passes measure to prevent importation of counterfeit parts]