At a glance, the counterfeit gun (left, at bottom) Don Burris purchased appears to be the genuine product. But compared side-by-side, details such as the color of the air cap ring and the SATA font are apparent. (The Chinese copy (right) even has “Made in Germany” falsely engraved.) The writing on the counterfeit (left) air cap is less defined and of the incorrect font, and the machined holes in the nozzle are not correct.

SATA combats counterfeit guns and products in marketplace

Online sellers are passing off Chinese copies as genuine products

Spring Valley, Minn.—Don Burris, owner of Don’s Paint & Body in Parsons, Kan., thought he’d done his due diligence in buying a new SATAjet 5000 spray gun for his son from a dealer advertising them for $450 on Facebook. It seemed like a good deal, and he watched the dealer’s posts for a couple of months, with no negative feedback.

“I talked to him a time or two, then finally we met up, and I looked at them: everything’s sealed the way it’s supposed to be, with the hologram on the box; it looked legit,” he said.

But the bad news came when one of Burris’ technicians scratched off the protective layer from the hologram sticker and went to register the gun.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to tell you this, but this is a fake,’” Burris said.

It’s easy to mistake the copy for a real SATAjet 5000, with some important details apparent only when comparing side-by-side to the genuine article, such as the font of the writing on the air cap and an anodized aluminum green ring instead of plastic. If you just see a photo of the gun online, it’s even more difficult to recognize whether it’s an original SATA gun or a fake.

“I wish I’d paid more attention,” Burris said. “If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. It’s kind of a hard pill to swallow. I think I’m a reasonably intelligent guy and have handled these guns. I feel like a fool, but it happens.”

Reached after several unsuccessful contact attempts, the dealer insisted the guns were real, that he’d bought them from a Kansas City warehouse, Burris said, but he then rushed off the phone, later unresponsive to demands for a refund.

Burris then contacted Dan-Am Co., the North American distributor for SATA, about the sale, with screenshots of the Facebook posts and of sale postings on eBay and Craigslist from the same seller after others came forward in response to Burris’ post in a Facebook post warning others.

It’s not a new problem, said Tony Larimer, director of sales and marketing for Dan-Am Co., which works together with the German manufacturer, SATA GmbH & Co. KG, to combat the counterfeiting. The manufacturer spends in the six figures each year to protect its customers against fake SATA guns, with full-time employees who travel the world to trade shows working with law enforcement to combat it. One of the more newsworthy seizures was one conducted by U.S. Marshals last fall during a trade show that cleaned out the booth of counterfeiter still owing $2 million in damages to the manufacturer from patent and trademark infringement three years earlier.

The counterfeiters are becoming more brazen with their copying, down to the SATA Authentication Label (SAL) on the box, Larimer said. The unique alphanumeric serial code is randomly generated and is on each SATA product: guns, breathing hoods, and filters, and each product can be registered at to authenticate it. Doing so also extends the gun’s warranty from one year to three years.

The SAL number shows the day the gun was manufactured, the technician who tuned it and tested the air cap and nozzle, the day it was shipped, and to whom it was sold. It’s also a feature the counterfeiters have even tried to mimic without success.

“Lately, the Chinese will take one SAL number and they’ll make a batch of guns with one serial number,” he said. “You’ll look up a gun and it will say that was authentic, but it was already registered, and it will say, ‘That’s a plagiarized number.’ We’ve had a painter who’s purchased this in Houston, Texas, and one in Ohio, it will come back already registered and will be blacklisted so we can tell what’s authentic.”

Anyone tempted to buy a gun of dubious origin should expect it is either stolen or a fake, Larimer said, adding that the best way to ensure a genuine product is to buy from an authorized SATA distributor.

“They are the ones who are going to offer service before, during, and after the sale,” he said. “They will have a service tech who will come out if you have a question and they can bring you a demonstration gun if you you’re not sure if you want a 1.3, a WSB, or a 1.4 nozzle set. Those are the key components for us that are vital for protecting our brand and reputation.”

Last spring, after receiving complaints of leaking SATA RPS cups, SATA hired a private investigator to catch a Los Angeles paint, body, and equipment store selling fake RPS cups for half-price. A subsequent seizure by federal marshals and local law enforcement confiscated not only the inventory of cups but computers and cell phones to do an electronic search, which showed the dealer had imported a large number of them from China, Larimer said. That dealer was hit with a $90,000 fine and lost his inventory of bogus goods, which were crushed with a four-wheel-drive John Deere tractor in a YouTube video at Dan-Am headquarters.

“There’s quite a market for these guys, but we’re better than some at stopping it,” Larimer said.

See a video of a tractor crushing counterfeit SATA products:

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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