For example we are talking about special machine vision optics, cheaply manufactured by a chinese company, exclusively made for a well recognized western company with a brand name. The manufacturing process accords to strict standards assured by frequent audits by the said company, but the manufacturer is not withheld from selling the products elsewhere in general, but they must not either sell it with the western brand name, nor to any branded reseller. So one can actually directly buy from the manufacturer, without the "Western brand optics" label on it, but the product is exactly the same.

I would say it is "OEM", but in my perspective it would mean that the manufacturer does sell the products for other brands too, with different labels... but it does not: it either puts one specific label on it and ships to the western warehouse, or sells the products under no specific name "under the counter" on e.g. Aliexpress.

Is there a separate word for these products? I tried googling and inventing word combinations, but I did not find one suitable word/acronym. Should I just say OEM for this too?

Thank you for all ideas!

  • $\begingroup$ Unofficial parts or company unsanctioned/non-banded parts $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 31, 2023 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ Private label is products made for multiple companies. In this case, it is just an unbranded private label. Most of these cases today are unauthorized production of a product that should be exclusive, as you labeled it. $\endgroup$
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 31, 2023 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ "Backdoor selling can also refer to the selling of goods to a consumer outside normal purchasing rules. One example of this type of backdoor selling is sales by wholesalers direct to consumers, contrary to existing agreements with retailers." techtarget.com/whatis/definition/backdoor-selling $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 30, 2023 at 23:41

2 Answers 2


These are called "grey market goods". They're not fake and off the correct production line. However, they are lacking compared to the real products in some way. Usually, this is because they are parts recovered from the reject bin and sold.

So one can actually directly buy from the manufacturer, without the "Western brand optics" label on it, but the product is exactly the same.

This doesn't mean as much as you might think. The way factories work, especially in China, the same factory is contracted out to build products for different customers. Sometimes the same product is made for different customers. However, this does not mean the quality control are necessarily the same.

It is highly likely the original (branded) customer of the product demands higher quality control than the other customers. Indeed, if the other customers are selling the same product off the same manufacturing line there is very little incentive to maintain the same levels of quality control as the original customer. That's not to say the original customer can't mark up the price on their product due to branding. So you may be overpaying for the branded product, but the chances that the unbranded version doesn't have the same quality control is very high.

It is quite common for the off-brand parts to entirely consist of rejected parts from the original customer. Might not matter much for a simple consumer good, but matters very much if the product is something like an integrated circuit.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In fact its possible that the producta are all binned, so the off brand ones are all ones that didnt pass quality inspection for the brands X Y and Z. While they may be fine (cracked paint in corner) it might also be not so benign $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Sep 1, 2023 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ @joojaa Yes, the term is very broad and only means as far "came from the same assembly line but not marked as the official thing". It can encompass legit alternate customers to entirely consisting of scrapped parts. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 1, 2023 at 20:51

Stuff like that is usually referred to by recovering ex-engineers like me as a knockoff- a blanket term for various kinds of bogus products.

BTW there is a 12-step program for recovering ex-engineers but as my presence here amply demonstrates, it is notoriously ineffective.

  • $\begingroup$ "Knockoff" suggests to me that an item is a "fake" (or "bogus"), in that it is not actually made in the same way as the thing it's copying, but here the item really is the same except for one cosmetic feature. This seems like the opposite of what "knockoff" typically implies - rather than a truly different item pretending to be brand-name, this is a genuinely identical item pretending to not be brand-name. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie, this is why I am in the 12-step program! $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @phil sweet, Hi Phil, I enjoy reading your answers and comments here and yes I need a sponsor!!! $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2023 at 4:58

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