New Year, New Goals!

Hey all!

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been doing some rebranding.  Holmes P.I. is now my dedicated personal blog which will include a mix of professional and personal opinions and ramblings. Having always been an arm of IPCybercrime, Knockoff Report™ is now a part of the official IPC blog at https://ipcybercrime.com/blog/. So please go to that URL and sign up for the list over there. Via the IPCybercrime mailing list, Knockoff Report™ will be sent out the 1st Tuesday of every month. I’m excited to announce that we will now be publishing valuable content weekly including our usual industry Op-Eds and our newest offering, CyberSec Roundup™. CyberSec Roundup™ will be published on the 3rd Tuesday of every month and feature all of the relevant cyber security news stories for the month in one handy dandy place!

Here, on Holmes, P.I., I will be focusing on things that affect me individually, both personal and professional. So this is where to get all the juicy stuff! If you peruse the archives, you will see everything from my philosophy on life to investigative techniques. Here, you will get all of Rob. 100%. No holds barred, for better or worse!

Having said that, here is an update on what”s been going on with me:

  • Last year I hit my all time high weight of 265 lb. I decided to do something about it and dropped more than 30 lb. in 2017. I’m looking to keep it going in 2018 and, hopefully, you all will be able to experience the stud you knew in the 90s by the end of the year.
  • Life in Los Angeles has been great. Jason is still running the entire operation from our Plano, TX office. Here, I work on building business, consulting, and walking on the beach with my dog Chauncey.
  • As far as IPCybercrime, we’ve had many new developments. Namely, we are winding down our day-to-day Brand Protection work to focus on Incident Response and Physical Threats via the Internet. We’ll still be working in the Brand Protection field, but focusing mainly on consulting for major cases.

Other than that, I hope you all have been doing well and this year brings you the best fortune. Keep up to date with me here and IPC on our blog there.

Here’s to a rockin’ 2018!

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee…

Stain on blog from Rob's coffee cup

Fakes in Film: Orphan Black

Fakes-in-Film-Orphan-Black-300x300Anybody watch the Season 2 Premiere of this cool show?! Well, if you didn’t this post may be a bit of a spoiler, but not much.  For those of you who have not seen the show yet, here is a brief summary: Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical women who are revealed to be clones. The series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of her clone, Elizabeth (Beth) Childs, after witnessing Beth’s suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and its effect on issues of personal identity.

From an entertainment perspective my respect goes out to the lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple roles including a streetsmart grifter (Sarah), a manic suburban mom (Alison), a pot-smoking lesbian scientist (Cosima) and a feral Russian assassin (Helena) among others. For those of you who have not seen the show (yet), the main character is Sarah, who is partnered with Alison and Cosima, pooling their collective resources to figure out who made them and who is trying to kill them off.  Maslany’s award-worthy performances are often done playing opposite herself, whether in shootouts or comedic banter.  But the reason I’m writing about Orphan Black on Knockoff Report is the cloning issue. On the surface, cloning can be an interesting topic in the IP debate.

The thing that made me think hard about this wasn’t the epically cool first season.  It was this week’s Season 2 premiere that really brought out the IP geek in me.  The scientist, Cosima, is investigating the codes embedded in their DNA and cracks it. Turns out, embedded in her DNA, and the rest of her clone sisters is a patent notice. Her quote, “We’re property. They patented us.” was the topic of this episode which was entitled “Personal Property”. As interesting as this seems, this is still not why Rob Holmes, an anticounterfeiting expert and enthusiast, was drawn to write about this.  Here is the reason: I admit I do not know the outcome of the entire series and this is where speculation comes in. But, assuming one of the individuals is an original… are the patent owners actually counterfeiters? I say yes.  If I owned the patent for a duplication device, it would not give me rights over the items I copy.  Only rights overs the duplication process.  A patent is a grant of ownership over a specific process. Patents do not protect images, words or content.  This show is very good and I hope it goes on for many seasons.  If this is the case, we will not know some of those answers for years to come.  This means my actual argument may not even be valid until perhaps more seasons pass.  Is there an original?  Was the original created, or born?  But, as an IP geek, this is fun stuff and will keep us thinking for many years to come.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Fakes in Film: Dallas, Baby!

dallasIt’s an ironic thing that I’m located in the same town but, yes, I watch the TNT drama “Dallas” based on the 1980s phenomenon of the same name. To my defense, it’s located in my current city… but the soap opera aspects of the show are still quite appealing. Oil men, big business, politics, hot chicks… no problem putting in my time.

As y’all know the main character J.R. Ewing’s, his son John Ross Ewing, is caught between two (or more) women. One of the women, Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), is loyal to the Ewing family. Her brother Drew, on the other hand, is still trying to find his place in the world and to prove his worth to his sister. In addition to trying to prove his worth to his sister on the Ewing’s Southfork Ranch, he takes a job running goods across the Texas/Mexico border for Ewing rival Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi). A casualty of the rivalry, poor Drew gets caught transporting a truckload of counterfeit designer goods across the US/Mexican border.

Don’t blame the Ewings for this mess. Ryland was the mastermind of the counterfeiting operation from the beginning. But poor Drew is stuck in the middle. After the counterfeit goods incident, Ryland uses misguided Drew to pull off another operation against his own better judgment. But, sadly, there were casualties. If you’re up to date on the show may you know that Drew comes out from hiding this week.

No matter your angle on the show itself (I, personally, side with John Ross), the counterfeit goods arrest will certainly bite Drew, but not as badly as the demolitions operation that killed Christopher’s twins. If you’re not watching the show, IP interest aside, you’re missing out on some good old fashioned soap opera fun. Tune in baby!

Fakes in Film: American Gangster

american_gangster_posterWelcome to ‘Fakes in Film’, the first in a new series of articles featuring counterfeit goods and trademark infringement featured in movies and television.  More and more, this topic is being included in pop culture and we want to be there to show it to you.  Some references will be old/retro and some will be completely new.  So here goes…

One of my favorite crime films of the last decade is Ridley Scott’s epic “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film chronicles the rise and fall of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Washington) who is pursued by the flawed hero Richie Roberts (Crowe).

As a businessman I quickly connected with Lucas’ recognition of eliminating the middleman to connect directly with the supplier. He immediately doubled his profits after this step and gained respect from his peers by how he eliminated said middleman.  As a crime-fighter I related to Roberts’ pure motives and focus on the prize.  He wanted to stop Lucas’ criminal activities at all cost.  He did.

What does this film have to do with trademark infringement?  Of all films in recent years this sticks out with me the most.  Frank Lucas (Washington) is enjoying the spoils of the success of his uncut heroine on the streets on 1970s New York City.  What many may not recall is that he created a brand for this drug called “Blue Magic”.  When a competitor began using his trademark to distribute substandard drugs, he quickly met with this individual and explained the situation to him as follows:

  • “Blue Magic is a brand name; as much a brand name as Pepsi. I own it. I stand behind it. I guarantee it and people know that even if they don’t know me any more than they know the chairman of General Foods.  What you’re doing, as far as I’m concerned, when you chop my dope down to five percent, is trademark infringement.”

This illustrates to me, more than the usual venues, how brand recognition is so important that it transcends even legal commerce.  Brands rule, baby.  They rule completely.  Even though many of us spend our time trying to stop criminals from infringing on our clients’ trademarks, they too care about their own brands.  Irony?  yes.  Another way to track them?  Yes also.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Replica Handbags and Black Hat SEO

Google Gives Update on How It’s Combating PiracyAs I do in a normal day, I was patrolling the mean streets of the web looking for websites selling fakes.  On this particular day, one site came to my attention.  How does a church website with no e-commerce component show up as a top search engine result for replica handbags?  When I examined the website’s source code, I observed that there was a javascript injection placing links into their website unbeknownst to them.

Below is an example of what I observed:

     
     elementId = Math.floor(Math.random() * 10001);
     document.writeln('
‘); document.getElementById(‘block’ + elementId) .style.display=’none’; <a href=”http://xxxxxx.com/db-gestion/pmd/styles/default/images/ icons/brandname/brand-name-products.php”>brand name products</a>

Search engines rank websites based on inbound links from legitimate websites.  A javascript injection like this created invisible links to the bad guys’ website the search engines can see but the viewer cannot.  The way this is done is by finding an open doorway into a legitimate website that does not have the latest security updates.  This is an example of a black hat technique that helps increase search engine results for their illegal site.  The lesson to be learned (besides keeping your software updated) is that there are many hidden efforts behind marketing contraband products and, in turn, many clues left behind if you know where to find them.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Branch Offices for Counterfeit Luxury Goods

During one of my strolls through the dark alleys of the web I came across another interesting black hat search engine optimization technique: branch offices for counterfeit luxury goods installed within legitimate sites.  At first observation, the website I saw selling counterfeits looked like any other.  But, after a closer look, the URL appeared to be much longer than the typical domain-based URL like fakestuffseller.com.  Instead it looked like this: http://legitimatesite.com/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/ brand/boots/brand-boots.php.  I noticed an extra directory ‘/includes/‘ that looked out of place and perhaps would not be in the normal structure of this particular legitimate website.  My next step was to test my theory and delete the extra crap (/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/brand/boots/brand-boots.php) from the URL, leaving it to be simply legitimatesite.com.  As I has suspected this led me to a perfectly legitimate university website.

The two questions you are asking right now are “how?” and “why?”.  Allow me to enlighten you.  The “how” is similar to what I explained in another recent article I wrote regarding black hat search engine optimization techniques where hackers find weaknesses (like unlocked doors) in websites whose security software is not up to date.  Once that vulnerability is detected, the hacker can install thousands of his own websites within your website without your knowledge and, perhaps, for years before you even notice anything is strange.  The reason they do it is so that they can create tens of thousands of websites selling counterfeits.  Since this is done on a mass scale, the criminal is only minimally affected when your lawyer takes down poor old legitimatesite.com.  He has an unlimited supply.  Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Brand Protection and Social Media

In the era of telecommuting and coffee shop branch offices, Facebook has replaced the watercooler, LinkedIn is the new resume and Skype is the new boardroom. Let’s face it. Your online ‘brand’ has become your most public persona. Along with the vast benefits that social media bring a new world has opened up for fraud, misinformation and brand abuse. Holmes is not only a top brand protection investigator. He is also the one-man marketing department for his firm. Combining his two passions of trademark investigations and social media, he will take you on his journey from creating his first blog, designing his firm’s website, and planning a social media strategy and then arm you with brand protection tactics that he employs for his clients.  Rob gave this talk, entitled Brand Protection and Social Media in June 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

Living by Accident

Sometimes Risk is the Reward

Hi-Tech P.I.

Helping people see the forest for the trees, online.

Holmes, P.I.™

The Many Ramblings of a Not-So-Mad Man

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