We’ve all seen those ads or eBay postings for suspiciously low-priced Montblanc pens. Lots of people ask on the Fountain Pen Network if they’re possibly buying fakes. If the price is too good to be true, it’s always better to think twice.

I’m writing about this today, because I help moderate the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines Facebook page, and we’ve had several discussions about how to treat posts that deal with product clones/replicas, especially as there is buying and trading of pens among members.

We’ve had posts showing Lamy Safari knock-offs (Hero 359, Jinhao 599), and the low price and color selections look mighty tempting. We’ve been joking that it’s taken so long for Lamy to produce a purple Safari that the Chinese have beaten them to it! I’ve handled the Hero in person at a pen meet, and while it writes well enough, the plastic does not look very robust, and the finishing cannot compare with the Safari’s. You get the quality you pay for, I guess. Lamy does not seem to be pursuing any copyright infringement cases against the Chinese knock-offs at present.

One of our members received a takedown notice from Richemont (Montblanc’s parent company) about an old For Sale ad he had in a popular online marketplace. He is contesting it, because his items were original, previously-owned Montblancs. We’ve also had posts of fake Montblancs. In one post, the poster tried to skirt the obvious fact that his pen was a Chinese replica of a Montblanc Starwalker, by referring to it as an “homage” pen. If he had called it by its proper name “Baoer Skywalker”, it would have flown under the radar. But no matter how you glamorize it, it still copies a Montblanc too closely for comfort. With Richemont assiduously guarding its intellectual property rights, we don’t want any of that reflecting on our group page or membership, so we came up with this rule:

“Fountain Pen Network-Philippines would like to foster respect for intellectual property. We recommend that posts on fake fountain pens be limited to how to identify the real from the fake.

Also, please properly identify the pen in your post as identified by the manufacturer to avoid confusion with registered trademarks and tradenames. (Eg. If you post a photo of a Lamy or Montblanc knock-off, please identify them by their manufacturer names like Hero 359 or Jinhao 159, instead of the original branding.)

Posts on fakes or replicas reflect only the opinion of the poster, and in no way reflect the position of the group. Posts that do not meet the moderators’ requirements may be removed at their discretion.”

As soon as we posted this rule, the one who posted about the Chinese-made “homage” pen voluntarily deleted his post. In reality we can’t prevent people from knowingly buying fake products, but we can steer members’ attention more towards original, attractive and affordable products. As for aspirational brands, one can always save up for the real thing.