Manager for LED bulb maker says Chinese firm's online home was nearly identical except for name and contact info.
By Muhammed El-Hasan
Last week, a customer in Sweden e-mailed Torrance-based LEDtronics Inc. to ask if the LED light bulb maker was located in China.
The customer explained that he had been searching the Internet for LED bulbs when he came across a Chinese Web site nearly identical to that of LEDtronics.
The Torrance company's answer was an emphatic no.
The Chinese company, Jiaxing Chuantian Lighting Co., was using a nearly identical copy of LEDtronics' Web site, said Jordon Papanier, the Torrance firm's marketing manager.
"Copying is a form of flattery, but I'd rather be flattered in other ways," Papanier said. "They really were impersonating LEDtronics. It was a mirror site. Just their name and contact information was added on every page." By Friday, the Chinese site was down, but only after Papanier had spent about 10 days trying to contact every person and institution he could think of.
This included the Chinese Embassy in Washington, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the U.S. State Department, search engines, various international associations and the Chinese firm itself.
"Just today it was mysteriously gone," he said of the Web site.
Papanier said that it was clear that the Chinese firm had taken LEDtronics' Web site because the Torrance firm's meta tags were attached to the Chinese site. Meta tags are text hidden in a Web site to help search engines categorize them.
The Chinese company, in the Haiyan Technology Industrial Zone in Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province, could not be reached Friday for comment.
According to the Chinese supplier directory, TradeBIG.com, the Chinese firm was founded just last year to make LED bulbs.
LEDtronics was founded in Torrance in 1983.
Confusion between the two Web sites could create the impression that LEDtronics is not based in the U.S. This would hurt the Torrance company's brand, which is based on U.S. design and manufacturing, he said.
"Secondly, they suddenly have a well laid-out Web site (to) try to steal market share," he added.
Stealing ideas and other intellectual property is common in China, said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"Intellectual property rights in China really don't exist," Kyser said. "You have a huge problem with piracy of entertainment and software. But this is the first time I've heard of a company hijacking a Web site."
China has become an economic powerhouse with its ability to make products at low cost. Yet, government enforcement of copyright laws has trailed far behind economic growth.
The Chinese government has begun to crack down on fraud and corruption.
"But it's going to take time," Kyser said.