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Virtual Goods Are In As Physical Goods Are Slowing

This morning my wife and business partner Nastassia mentioned something while we were enjoying our morning coffee ritual.  Capital One Bank has moved into Cityville.  Yes, she plays the Zynga game Cityville on Facebook along with hundreds of millions of others, most of whom are over the age of thirty.


Ever since the initial popularity of virtual worlds like World of Warcraft, The Sims and Second Life I have anticipated that virtual goods will replace, or at least enhance, the public’s interest in designer goods in the real world.  Until these Facebook games took the world by storm, the idea of virtual gaming was only for the geeky.  The folks who enveloped themselves in a world of fictional characters and rode dragons.  But not anymore.  Now, people are growing farms, raising families, fighting mafia wars and playing poker with friends near and far.  And it’s as effortless as checking their email.  But twice as fun.  The way Cityville works, as you may figure, the player creates a working town and maintains it and builds it while their friends get points/credits for participating.  Participating can be as simple as visiting and as complicated as directing a tour bus from your town to theirs to direct revenue to your friend’s city.

Until recently, each establishment in your city would require you to choose a name for it.  For example, she added a coffee shop and called it RobBucks in honor of her Starbucks enthusiast husband.  No trademarks, just make-believe business names.  Last month she told me that Best Buy had moved into town and I, being a Best Buy enthusiast as well, got a little giddy.  These items are currently free but there are tons of items within the game that cost money.  It may cost a measly dollar to repair your car, or put on nice rims.  Perhaps an extra five dollars to buy more land.  Soon, we will be paying for Nike sneakers,  Budweiser t-shirts and MacBooks.  Don’t scoff at this.  The Chinese market alone for these types of ‘microtransactions’ has eclipsed the $10 Billion mark and the USA is right behind.

I predict that these virtual establishments will soon lead to real online shopping  outlets offering both physical and virtual goods creating revenue streams previously unimaginable.  These games will soon be creating tens of billions of dollars of advertising and sales revenue for legitimate brands.  Folks, this world is about to explode and we’re in the middle of it.  If you are a trademark geek like I am, get excited.  This is our industrial revolution.

Trademark departments… Start your engines!

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A Great Conference in NYC in September

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

Last week I attended the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, which boasted attendance of 25,000 people in Salt Lake City, Utah.  On Day One, I was having lunch with a colleague, Andrew Love of Specialized Bicycles who was telling me of his upcoming panel at the IQPC Anti-Counterfeiting & Brand Protection Summit in New York on September 27th.  He was telling me that he is going to be presenting with representatives from DuPont and demonstrating many of the methods that fraudsters use to try to get one over on his company.  Andrew’s story is a very inspiring one.  He is a professional speed skater by trade and, like most avid winter athletes, is located in Salt Lake City.  He began working for Specialized some time ago and, through his own curiosity and need to help his customers, realized that a brand protection department was needed within his company.  Since this occurrence, Andrew single-handedly created a brand protection department at his company and is an ambassador for the entire bicycling industry in this field.  I am excited to see what he will present on his panel in NYC next month.

On Day Two, I presented on a panel with another colleague Mr. Rich Halverson who is the Unit Chief at the United States IPR Center in DC.  Over dinner later that evening, Rich was telling me of the Center’s most recent activities which included bringing on more international partners and seizures in the real and virtual worlds.  Turns out he too will be also be presenting at the IQPC Anti-Counterfeiting & Brand Protection Summit in New York on September 27th.

I’ve been a fan of IQPC and have partnered with them over the last couple of years.  I am actually a media sponsor of this particular event.  I am also a member of the great associations that support anti-counterfeiting and brand protection efforts.  This industry, and the need for this type of work, is increasing at an ever-growing speed.  I’m glad IQPC is there to pick up the slack and give these great associations the support they need.

I encourage you to check out this conference and attend.  You can click here to check it out and get 15% off as one of my readers.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

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Rest in Peace, My Friend

Rob Holmes in the LRG Skeleton hoody

“If wealth was measured in love we would be the richest family in the world.” ~ Jersey Joe Bevacqua.

I read this phrase when visiting a client’s office in 2006.  Let me rewind a short bit.  I met a nice young kid named Mike FitzSimons that year who retained my services to assist his company, Lifted Research Group, in its brand security issues, as it was becoming a household name and a major brand in the street wear category.

I soon thereafter drove down to their Orange County offices and was first met by a refrigerator full of Red Bull.  I was in heaven.  FitzSimons, who later became a trusted friend, told me stories about being the first ever employee of this company when he and his close friend Nick Terrio carried fabric in their cars to help their friend Jonas put together what he needed to create what they believed to be sublime human philosophy threaded in clothing form.  A company that was now in Macy’s and a making hundreds of millions per year , that Jonas and his partner Robert Wright, the founders of LRG only cared about one thing.  Love.  Threaded into clothes.  What a concept.

Over the next couple of years, I got to know others in their company and found the one word “love” ruled over all others.  Jonas was almost a decade younger than me and kind of a kid I liked protecting.  Jonas died in his sleep last night at the age of 34.  He lived life to the fullest and loved everyone.  Even those he didn’t yet know.  If someone put their arm or leg into something he conceived, his eyes teared and he loved more.

Now that he is gone all I can think of is his legacy of loving his fellow man at all cost.  Man, I don’t care if I saw Jonas high-fiving Kanye West or buying shots for his customer service reps, he was 100% love.  I might spend the next three decades learning from this kid and it will be well spent.

Learn from Jonas.  Sit down today and live today like it’s your last.  Hug somebody and tell them they mean something.  Nothing else matters.  I promise.

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Partner with IPCybercrime!

As many of you are working on your 2011 budgets, I wanted to send you a short email to remind you that IPCybercrime’s test purchase program is in full force and ready to fill your in-house needs.  Whether you are a brand owner, a law firm or an investigations agency, why not leave the buys to us so you can worry about the rest of your job?

Our purchase process is still the best in the industry, with our proprietary court-tested LITPAK® as well as our many undercover identities nationwide.  I encourage you to request a proposal, first letting us know briefly of your budget and your needs.  You will be surprised at how efficient your operation can be when utilizing us on a day-to-day basis.

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CNBC’s “Crime Inc.: Counterfeit Goods” Premiering Tonight

Fake handbags, watches, and perfumes are a way of the past. The largest underground industry in the world, Counterfeit Goods bring in hundreds of billions, while sapping the economy, putting lives in jeopardy, and funding organized crime in the process.

CNBC presents “Crime Inc.: Counterfeit Goods,” a CNBC Original reported by CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla takes viewers inside where the goods are produced and confiscated in a world of high-risk and high-reward.

The one-hour special brings you on raids with the LAPD anti-counterfeiting unit, inspections at ports, and back-room factories where counterfeits are produced. Meet a couple who was paralyzed by counterfeit Botox, a company whose whole brand was copied, and the story of a defense contractor who counterfeit defense parts that found their way into weapons depots in Iraq.

At around 7% of all global trade, Counterfeit Goods are a big business with low overhead. It makes too much money to go away any time soon.

Below is a video NBC television shot featuring me as a network lead-in to advertise for the CNBC piece:

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The Imaging Supplies Coalition 2010 Conference

The Imaging Supplies Coalition (ISC) will be hosting its 2010 Conference on Counterfeiting in the Imaging Supplies Industry on September 19 – 21, 2010. The Conference will be conducted at the Biscayne Bay Marriott Hotel and Marina in Miami, FL. The theme of the conference is Combating Counterfeiting on a Global Scale. The conference will be attended by 90 to 100 professionals involved in brand protection and anti counterfeiting activities. The conference is international in scope with attendees from Europe, Asia, the US, Canada and Latin America.

I will be giving my talk entitled “IPCybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web”.  Here is a summary:  Counterfeit goods have been a part of Western culture for centuries and a widespread regional problem since the late 1970s. Since the dawn of the Internet, counterfeit goods have become a phenomenon, joining together average customers with vast networks of manufacturers, distributors, money launderers and many organized crime operations. In his presentation, Rob Holmes will present case studies and other examples demonstrating how modern criminals are using the Internet to commit these economic crimes which are evolving at a monumental pace.

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So You Want To Catch Infringers?

My passion in life is catching counterfeiters.  Over the last 15 years, I have assembled an amazing arsenal of techniques, tips & tricks to make this job more streamlined, productive and the most successful of its kind.  Every so often I come across, or invent, a trick that revolutionizes the way I do my job.

Another thing that brings me great joy is teaching people what I know.  Throughout my career, many of you have dropped me a line to pick my brain or to ask for assistance on a case.  After careful thought, I decided that my investigative secrets were too valuable to keep to myself.  So I assembled an 8-hour course and called it “Internet Boot Camp for IP Attorneys & Paralegals“.  This course will be the most informative of its kind ever.

I will teach you how to:

  • Search the web
  • Preserve & handle digital and physical evidence
  • Profile suspects
  • Trace email correspondence
  • Manage a high-volume caseload
  • Recover assets
  • A lot more!

Online tools come and go.  Sites go down.  Laws and terms of service change.  My goal is to equip you not only with all of my time-tested tools, but to train you to find new tools and develop your own.  My goal is to help you become the go-to Internet investigator in your office.  (NOTE: It is open only to attorneys, paralegals an in-house legal departments).

It will be held on March 3, 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Downtown DallasSeating is limited to 25 and only a few seats are left! This is the only one scheduled, so don’t miss it.  I am extending a special discount to readers of Knockoff Report.  When registering, use the discount code KNOCKOFFREPORT for 10% off.

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2009 14th Annual Kestenberg Siegal Lipkus LLP Anti-counterfeiting Fraud Conference

Hi Folks.  Guest blogger Attorney David Lipkus reports on last week’s KSL/CACN conference.

As things wind down here at the conference, there have been numerous lessons learned from a number of presenters.  Some highlights include:

  1. Internet investigation – lots of counterfeiters reveal personal information on social networking sites, websites, on shipping documentation and in other areas.
  2. Grey market goods – Counterfeiters often believe they are dealing in grey market goods, but are often dealing in counterfeit – always authenticate evidence/sample purchases with intellectual property rights holders before accepting their position.
  3. Cross border counterfeiting – It’s not just CHINA…many cases involve links between American, Canadian and Mexican counterfeiters.  The more information being shared between borders– the greater the likelihood the counterfeiter will be caught.
  4. Pharmaceutical counterfeiting issues – Counterfeiters do not discriminate when choosing which products to counterfeit – if there is demand for H1N1 vaccines – they will be counterfeited.  A long time ago, Lorne Lipkus once said “If the deal is too good to be true, it’s usually is”.
  5. The ROM – The Royal Ontario Museum has an upcoming exhibit – Fakes and Forgeries: Yesterday and Today.  This is a great exhibit for public awareness on counterfeiting and will provide a fun learning experience to guess which objects are real and which are fakes.  The exhibit opens January 9, 2010 and will be here until April 4, 2010. The next time you visit Toronto – this is a must see!!!

If you’re reading this website – then you are probably aware that all products can be counterfeited.  One of the best ways to combat this problem is to work together.  If I can be of assistance please do not hesitate to contact me at

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5th Global Congress – The Overview

The 5th Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy is now in the books.  Like all these Congresses in the past, this one was something of a mixed bag for the attendees.  Most of the people I spoke with at the Congress thought that the panel presentations were too long and that the speakers, a number of whom were high level government officials, spoke in very high levels of abstract expression and gave very little of substance.  Many were rather amazed that at this point in the game speaker after told us that “counterfeiting kills” and that “governments are deprived of much-needed tax revenue.”  Surely, we all know these things by now.

I think that some of this is the result of a misunderstanding of what these Congresses are meant to do.  They are not like ordinary legal seminars that many of us attend.  The underlying purpose of the Congresses is to keep the issues of counterfeiting and piracy in front of government decision makers.  By having the Congresses in different parts of the world and by having government officials speak at the Congresses, it more or less forces them to make pronouncements about their concerns about our issues.  This is very important in its own right.

On this level, the 5th Global Congress was a success.  I do think there is room for improvement, however, and I hope that we will see some better programing at the next Congress in Paris next year.  It is up to all of us who did attend to contact the organizers and give them our suggestions for improvement.

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Looking back 5 years after: Bob Holmes (1948-2004)

Today I signed up to walk in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I have not yet embraced this type of organization mainly because, I guess, I still don’t know how to read my own feelings about my old man’s early departure. The best way I have known to deal with them is to share words about him with those who loved him. Since many of you knew him, I thought perhaps a re-post of the eulogy I read at his funeral would be a suitable memory for all of us five years after…

The earliest memory in my life is sitting in a lifeguard booth between my Dad and his partner, wearing my Dad’s lifeguard hat. And I think figuratively, I’ve been trying to wear his hat my entire life.
RobDad Lifeguard

In the 70s, I saw my father as Officer Jim Street from the TV show SWAT. Jumping over fences and chasing bad guys. In the 80s I saw him as Spenser: For Hire, a tough private eye character from books and television. His favorite movie was The Magnificent Seven. These were tough men that I could never be. And because of that, I always saw myself as a disappointment to my father.

Then, about ten years ago, I drove across the country to get away from the old man. Through a bunch of circumstances, I fell into his line of business. And you know what? Ten years later, I’m doing what my Dad does. And I’m as good as him.

Last year, after my sister’s wedding, we were at a bar and Bob ordered up his usual for himself and for me; a shot of Cuervo and a bottle of Heineken. I lifted my shot glass, and I said, “To my hero.” He lifted his and said, “To mine.” That was my defining moment. I knew that I had gained my father’s respect. That’s all I ever wanted.

There were a few people my father considered his heroes:

His first hero was his father Loren Holmes. His father’s special name for him was “Robbie”. After Loren died when Bob was only ten, Bob instructed everyone to call him “Bobby” because the other name died with his father. Most everybody has called me Robbie my entire life. My father always told me that that name was a piece of his father that he saved to give to his first son.

RobDad1996His best friend’s father, Al Ganary, was a father to him until Al’s passing about ten years ago. Besides of course the daily joy Bob had with his loved ones, the last real good time my father had was at a thing called “Bad Boys Weekend”. This was one weekend a year he and his life-long friends Dave Ganary and Roy Bergey set aside to celebrate the life of their father figure Al Ganary and the bond they all had.

His big brothers Ted and Bub were immortal gods to him; men who couldn’t be harmed or die.

The person he admired most was his mother Mildred. All my life, it was his mother he held up as his example of strength. Not to mention, Bob always said that she had the greatest detective mind that he had ever encountered.

My song to my father is a song Bruce Springsteen wrote to his father. Even though he was a grown man, he still looks to his father in order to know how to walk like a man.”

[Dear family friend Rev. Steve Rahter performed this song live in Linwood, NJ at the funeral.’]

Here’s to you, Dad. I’ll see you again.

“Walk Like a Man” by Bruce Springsteen

I remember how rough your hand felt on mine on my wedding day
And the tears cried on my shoulder I couldn’t turn away
Well so much has happened to me that I don’t understand
All I can think of is being five years old following behind you at the beach tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man

By our lady of the roses we lived in the shadow of the elms
I remember ma draggin’ me and my sister up the street to the church whenever she heard those wedding bells
Well would they ever look so happy again the handsome groom and his bride
As they stepped into that long black limousine for their mystery ride
Well tonight you step away from me and alone at the alter I stand
And as I watch my bride coming down the aisle I pray for the strength to walk like a man

Well now the years have gone and I’ve grown from that seed you’ve sown
But I didn’t think there’d be so many steps I’d have to learn on my own
Well I was young and I didn’t know what to do
When I saw your best steps stolen away from you
Now I’ll do what I can
I’ll walk like a man
And I’ll keep on walkin’

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