NEC has been the victim of a large-scale piracy ring that sold both counterfeit NEC goods as well as NEC-branded products that the company does not even manufacture, it acknowledged on Friday.
The company is unsure whether the goods were produced by factories working under contract for NEC in China and Taiwan or if they come from an outside counterfeit goods syndicate, said Yasuhito Jochi, a spokesman for NEC in Tokyo. "We cannot provide any details because we are still investigating," he said.
Counterfeit keyboards, writeable CDs and DVDs, and MP3 players have been sold unlawfully under the NEC brand, even though NEC doesn't necessarily manufacture all those products, he said. The company does not make MP3 players, for example.
NEC was unable to estimate the value of the pirated goods sold as it hasn't yet ascertained the scope of the problem.
The company first became aware of the problem in the second half of 2004, when it began receiving inquiries from customers about products they had purchased but that NEC did not make.
A report in Friday's International Herald Tribune newspaper indicated that as many as 50 factories in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong may be involved.
Counterfeit goods and software are a huge issue in China, and a point of tension in trade relations between China and other nations including the United States.