Machines making D'Addario guitar strings in Farmingdale stopped for 20 minutes Monday so Sen. Charles Schumer could address workers' concerns that a Chinese counterfeiting operation is hurting their company's business.
"This is an in-your-face example of how the Chinese simply flaunt international law and destroy American jobs," Schumer told about 300 workers. "Counterfeit products put Americans . . . out of work."
James D'Addario, the company's president and chief executive, said the counterfeit manufacture of D'Addario-labeled strings became apparent to him about 10 years ago. The practice has been putting a dent in his bottom line during the past three years, he said.
D'Addario said the company, which makes about half a million guitar strings each day, launched its own investigation after sales representatives reported finding pirated strings in four Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing.
He said that Chinese authorities fined one factory only $3,500 after discovering 100,000 sets of counterfeit guitar strings there.
"Over here, that would be grand larceny, and you're looking at jail time," D'Addario said. "Over there, it's a slap on the wrist."
D'Addario said the problem doesn't exist only in China. "We've had product infiltration in Australia, Romania, Germany," he said. "It's hard for us to quantify how much market we're losing."
Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the embassy of the People's Republic of China, said the Chinese government considers intellectual property rights to be of "great importance," but said it is "a relatively new issue to China, which opened to the outside world 30 years ago."
"The Chinese government has recently launched a special campaign to track down such illegal activities," he said. "I'm not aware of the specific case raised by Senator Schumer."
Schumer called on several federal agencies to help bring an end to intellectual property violations in China. He asked that the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the U.S. Trade Representative pressure China to end intellectual property abuses.He specifically requested that the federal government shut down a website, the Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba.com, which has sold pirated guitar strings.
Linda Kozlowski, a spokeswoman for Alibaba.com, said the company is working with the Long Island manufacturer to "remove the fake D'Addario products . . . immediately."