BINGEN, Wash. — The founder of the Orange Screw company in Bingen, WA is deciding how he will fight knock offs of his product.
He’s certain one or more crooks from China have copied his product with cheap materials and are undercutting his prices.
“This is China. This is China. I mean every product you see here is a product that was manufactured in China,” said Kirby Erdely.
He pointed to three colored plastic screws. They looked similar to his product but are not.
The Orange Screw is apparently very good at anchoring tents and other things to the ground during wind storms.
It is made of 100% recycled plastic, according to the company website and molded in Vancouver, Washington.
It's assembled and shipped from Bingen.
Erdely said he and his late stepfather dreamed up the product with the help of a wine opener.
“We realized we could turn a, something that was as simple as a wine opener into a really unique camping product,” he said.
Erdely launched the company in 2014 and now sales are brisk.
The Orange Screw is sold around the world on Amazon and the Orange Screw website.
The product also sells at Ace Hardware stores and in Sportsmans Warehouse locations.
But it is the online sales that apparently inspired the knock offs.
“So they would use all of our photographs and all of our videos – all of our content off our website. They would build a fake page and then they would run a sponsored ad campaign via Facebook or Instagram linking to their fake store,” Erdely said.
He said the knock offs started appearing last summer. He sent the real product for free to anyone who emailed that they'd been tricked into buying the fake ones.
It happened again this summer but slightly backfired on the knock offs. Erdely said many googled the company to see what the screw was all about, found a scam warning the company had posted and ended up buying from the company.
“We did about six times our normal sales in one day on Amazon because these guys were dumping so much money into sponsored Instagram and Facebook campaigns and then folks were discovering us through their advertising dollars,” he said.
Still, it's more than annoying.
Yes, he does have a patent, but defending the product is not cheap.
“I spent Friday on the phone with several different lawyers and starting cost to defend our patent is about $15,000. And it could take 12 to 18 months before we get a yes or no answer. The fast track path only takes one year which is kind of a joke I think, and it can cost upwards of $100,000,” said Erdely.
Despite the knock offs Orange Screw is moving forward and nearing a$1,000,000 a year in sales.
“We’re not gonna let em bring us down. We know our product has great engineering, we’re using awesome materials – we know they’re really useful- they don’t break and our customers appreciate that value,” said Kirby Erdely.