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United States Television The Courts

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
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Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV

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  • Hit to the brand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @10:42AM (#54602045)

    Maybe if they didn't want their brand to take a substantial hit, they shouldn't have licensed it out.

    • Re:Hit to the brand (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @10:54AM (#54602129)

      This falls into the no-shit category, but let's wait for the PRC trolls to come and explain to us that we're mistaken about low quality products being made in China, and utilization of that particular business model being an epic mistake. I say this having been a designer of electronics, having seen what their factories do and just how difficult it is to keep them on task and pulling shady ass shit we explicitly asked them not to do. I cannot imagine how bad it is when you give up all control.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        We've seen how bad it is when you give up control, look at that latest Fantastic Four movie. It makes the unreleased Roger Corman licensing-placeholder look watchable.

        • We've seen how bad it is when you give up control, look at that latest Fantastic Four movie. It makes the unreleased Roger Corman licensing-placeholder look watchable.

          I heard the musical version was much better.

      • by leathered ( 780018 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:28AM (#54602405)

        My favorite tale of Chinese manufacturing is that factories making genuine products for Western companies have been known to put on extra shifts to turn out knockoffs, using the same machines and tooling that the Western company has paid for. I recall a significant number of fake Cisco products were found to be made in the same factory as the genuine stuff.

        Handing your blueprints over to counterfeitors as well as paying for their machines is an almost comical way of slitting the throat of your business.

        • This happens with pretty much every Chinese-manufactured product nowadays. A quick trip to AliExpress will find you nameless versions of well-known products for literally half the price.

          • Try Taobao as well if you want to see decently made stuff (for the most part) at bargain basement prices. Even using a shopping agent like Taobaoring that adds an 8% commission, you can buy stuff dirt cheap, and have it shipped your way.

            If you want a couple gross of fidget spinners for door prizes, it might be the place to go.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by AC-x ( 735297 )

        All of Apple's products are made in China... Thus proving that China churns out low quality products :)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        No, their TVs are apparently pretty bad. Same with Toshiba sets in Europe, which are actually some re-badged Bulgarian brand IIRC.

        Everything was fine until smart TVs came along. Before that it was actually hard to make a bad TV. Buy a panel from Sharp or LG, buy an off-the-shelf video decoding and processing chip that handles each country's DTV format and some image enhancement, and you have a perfectly reasonable TV. There was just nothing left at the low and middle ends of the market except for cost reduc

        • KInd of makes sense. Onmce you make it smart it becomes a computer and you need an OS (even if it's a minimal one) plus all the user facing apps, a GUI ... none of that shit is trivial. Even "proper" software companies make a balls of it sometimes.

        • The problem with the cheap Hisense TVs isn't just the smart features. Lots of us don't use those anyway, we just hook the TV up to a Roku or Fire TV or Chromecast or a set-top box from the cable guys. Everybody who bought a smart TV will probably stop using its smart features within five years because they will be hopelessly out of date.

          The real problem is that they don't deliver good picture quality. You'll see various problems like color banding, bad implementation of variable backlighting that cause the

      • There are many high quality products being made in China. The Hisense-made TVs are not among them; Hisense is a price-leader company, not a high quality one. Don't know if Sharp has any recourse at this point; they should looked more carefully before making that deal.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe if they didn't want their brand to take a substantial hit, they shouldn't have licensed it out.

      Apparently this was done when Sharp was taking a nosedive and really needed the money, so presumably they felt that the alternative was going bust altogether.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Then they don't have a lot of room to complain about their deal-with-the-devil unless the contract specified the nature of the quality of the final products in ways that can be objectively measured and quantified.

        • That seemed to be the implication of the summary, that they did have such a stipulation there.

          Closer to home, I know Amtrak was forced to stop calling some of its trains by the names the private railroads had called them because the original operator didn't feel the Amtrak service was of similar quality. The odd thing there was that the original operator wasn't running passenger trains any more, and didn't have any need to keep the name.

          I'd be surprised if most licensing agreements don't come with some

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        My experience from Sharp has been that they were second tier compared to some other Japanese brands. Their stuff works but isn't very inspiring.

        • The Sharp Aquos series was top quality some years ago. Then Sharp split the brand so the low-end was the outsourced crap and the high-end was still good. I guess at some point they started outsourcing the high end; big mistake.

    • Outsourcing gives you unpredictable quality? Gee, who wouldda thought!

      • They licensed the brand name. The company makes its own products, with their own specs and choices, and puts the licensed name on it. The Sharps company makes money from licensing their name, sort of like a Harley Davidson branded pencil.

        My question is, is this really outsourcing?

    • Maybe if they didn't want their brand to take a substantial hit, they shouldn't have licensed it out.

      That doesn't follow. Licensing in an of itself has no impact on the brand or the quality. It's all about *how* you license it. Though if it got as far as a lawsuit it would seem the licensing contracts didn't have oversight, but the flip side of the coin is the fact that they are being sued about quality is an indication that quality was a controlling factor of the license.

      You can't license away quality control, but you most definitely can license away a lot of the rest of the business without any issue.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Sure it follows.

        If you license-out the brand name itself then it's very likely that problems won't be discovered until after product has shipped and harmed the brand. After all, the company that has paid for the right to use the SHARP brand has that contact saying they're allowed to do so; the burden to demonstrate that there's an issue falls on the company that licensed-out that brand.

        If the owner of the brand wanted to protect the brand they should have retained direct involvement in how the brand is use

        • discovered until after product has shipped

          So what you're saying is you omitted the requirement for independent quality control before shipping from your license agreement.

          Allow me to quote myself for prosperity:

          It's all about *how* you license it.

      • Licensing in an of itself has no impact on the brand or the quality. It's all about *how* you license it.

        No, it's about what the licensee does with it. In this case, they're apparently smearing it with shit and hitting crippled orphans over the head with it.

        • It's all about *how* you license it.

          No, it's about what the licensee does with it.

          So what you're saying is it's about *how* you license it. Because you know, that is precisely what permits or denies a licensee from doing something.

    • Re:Hit to the brand (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:59AM (#54602667) Homepage

      Maybe if they didn't want their brand to take a substantial hit, they shouldn't have licensed it out.

      At the time, I gather from another article [engadget.com], Sharp was hard-up for money. They've since been bought out...by Foxconn. Pot calling the kettle black, much?

    • I assume the people who made these decisions have already taken it to the bank though. It's the sucker employees and later investors who are getting the shaft for decisions they didn't make. Worth remembering that corporations aren't individuals, you can't just shrug it off saying "they reap what they sow."
    • It stands to reason that this breaches the name licensing agreement they have; I can't imagine they would consent to their name being attached to inferior products being marketed deceptively.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't.

        We haven't seen the contract. We do not know what the verbiage surrounding product quality, if any, is present in the document. We don't know anything about unit count, quality range, warranty, or anything else.

        It's possible that all of this is properly enumerated in the contract, but it's also possible that the licensor's terms were poorly spelled-out and that the licensee is free to do exactly what they're doing.

        • by Kkloe ( 2751395 )
          they seem to have written atleast something so they can sue other about breaking it, well it is now up to the court to decide
    • Companies do this at times, usually because it helps out the short term finances. Especially if the company is on the decline but the name still has value. Getting that short term cash can help the company stabilize. Sometimes after a lot of growth the company may not be able to manage it all and wants to push out a side line with its name to an outsourcer.

    • These are the people that just told everyone that Sharp stands for shit TVs with the lawsuit and wants the brand name back. Then they'll wonder why the sales have tanked along with the brand image in a couple quarters. It's not like there are a bunch of geniuses running the show over at Sharp.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Modern app appers only use App® brand apps, NOT LUDDITE Sharp!

    Apps!
  • I have 2 Hisense TVs (Hisense branded, not Sharp branded). My Smart TV that I purchased failed (the LED backlight stopped working), and they replaced it with a brand new much better model with no issue under warranty when it was almost 2 years old. The replacement was made in Mexico, not China, even. Hisense USA is based in Atlanta (Suwanee GA), not China, though their parent company is Chinese.
    • by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:34AM (#54602449) Journal

      Hisense USA is based in Atlanta (Suwanee GA), not China, though their parent company is Chinese.

      All that means is that there's a shell company that imports drek from China, handles local customer disservice and warranty non-fulfillment.

      Nearly every multinational company does the same thing -- Apple's Ireland shell company has made a lot of news lately as a tax haven, IIRC. That doesn't make Apple an Irish company.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @10:58AM (#54602169) Homepage

    It sure did pay the bills back in the '80s when I worked in TV/VCR repair. The TV sets regularly caught fire when the flyback transformers carbonized (prompting a class action lawsuit and a huge settlement), and their VCRs were a constant source of mechanical issues, far worse than most of the competition.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have a Sharp television, manufactured in the 70s, in the USA, even. Still works perfectly, and is still our only set. Has never been repaired or serviced.

      • It's fuck faces like you who doesn't know what "works perfectly" means. You'd have to compare it against a new TV to see how bad the colours are now than when it was new in the 70's. I've had the big Wood TV's. They seem like quality, but it's just cause the source has been low quality and you've adjusted to the flaws over the years.
    • Sharp Zaurus.
  • Article is paywalled (Score:3, Informative)

    by L. J. Beauregard ( 111334 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:00AM (#54602191)

    and I'm not giving my money to Rupert Murdoch.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's OK.

      I paid for the article twice to even things out.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:09AM (#54602241) Homepage

    You sold the rights to your name to make a quick buck, now stop whining when someone uses it in a way you don't like. If you wanted your name only to be associated with good (ok, reasonable) quality gear you should have kept it in house.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      You sold the rights to your name to make a quick buck

      Don't knock it, it worked for the USA President (depending on how you define "worked")
       

    • If you wanted your name only to be associated with good (ok, reasonable) quality gear you should have kept it in house.

      That is 100% dependent on the terms of the license. You understand that word right? License? Not sale. They don't own the brand, they just have a license to it.

      • Umm... This is Slashdot. We aren't exactly known for understanding the concept of the word, 'license.' How many times have you heard/read someone say they bought the program, music, movie, or OS? How many times have you read someone say that they own things they don't actually own?

        With enough money, you can probably get Microsoft to sell you software, or an operating system. However, it is probably gonna cost a whole lot more dollars than expected.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

      You sold the rights to your name to make a quick buck, now stop whining when someone uses it in a way you don't like. If you wanted your name only to be associated with good (ok, reasonable) quality gear you should have kept it in house.

      They are not whining, they are conniving. They sold off the name rights in the US market when they were tanking as a company. Now that they recovered a bit, they want the name back and are using this as a means to get out of the existing agreement.

  • TVs are so cheap from the top tier brands such as Sony, LG, Samsung I don't understand why you would buy anything else
    • There have been times recently when it is rather difficult to find a good tv from a mainstream manufacturer that didn't spy on you and make you pay for the privilege.
    • by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:45AM (#54602547) Journal

      Sharp was a top tier brand -- Sony and Sharp co-funded an LCD panel factory, and Sony TV's used Sharp's LCD panels. (The whole reason Sony was involved in the factory is because they wanted Sharp's LCD panels).

      The problem is that Sharp happened to buy the factory just before the housing crisis -- and the market for new TV's vanished overnight. If you took any time to look outside the world of the PlayStation, you'd see that Sony had some serious problems selling their TV & home theatre products during the same period.

      With nobody buying, Sharp was unable to sell their own TV's, or LCD panels to Sony. State-sponsored/funded Chinese companies swooped in as the market was picking up again, and Sharp wasn't able to recover.

      So yeah... Sharp was unlucky in its timing of building a factory, and the PRC's government decided it was in their interest to spend government money to bankrupt a foreign company. Nothing new about either of those things.

  • In the US market a licensor must have a measure of control over the products produced under license. If Sharp failed to include that then it is deemed a naked license and Hisense should be able to apply for revocation of the Shap trademark for TVs.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      apply.... revocation

      Almost. In its response to the lawsuit, Hisense will argue, as an affirmative defense, that the SHARP trademark has been abandoned due to the naked licensing. There's no "application" to anyone and the court need not and won't "revoke" the trademark registration- it may instead order the Commissioner to cancel it.

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @11:40AM (#54602501) Homepage
    I didn't know Sharp still made televisions.
  • pffff (Score:2, Troll)

    by fubarrr ( 884157 )

    TV and movies is entertainment for dump, primitive people

  • by Jerry Atrick ( 2461566 ) on Monday June 12, 2017 @02:55PM (#54604377)

    Can't remember when Sharp had a reputation worth defending but it wasn't this century! Here in the UK HiSense is now a more respected brand than most Japanese brands that went down the licencing cheap foreign factory built crap route long, long ago.

  • I think licensing or selling of trademarks should be illegal altogether.

    The whole point of trademark law was not to create some kind of "intellectual property" that the holder could license or sell, or be sold off as an asset in a bankruptcy sale.

    The point of it was to protect consumers. So that when you bought a bottle of "Bass Pale Ale" (one of the oldest trademarks in the world), you could be reasonably sure it was made by the right people, and not some cheap knock-off. Consumer protection.

    When tradema

  • Best Buy has a house brand "Toshiba". built cheap, forget anything you may have associated with Toshiba, like that laptop that lasted six years.....Tossed it out, replaced with a Samsung which at least had accurate skin tones.

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