Tag: anti-counterfeiting

Even Some Prisoners are Chinese Knockoffs

Throughout the years in the anti-counterfeiting business there have been a few times where we, and our clients, have lauded our victories when a raid was accomplished on a factory making Chinese knockoffs.  Once, I remember, back in 2006 our client’s attorney actually saw thirteen people in handcuffs.  Chinese nationals, in China.  In cuffs for making fakes.  Not bad for a case that started with some handbags sold by a Purse Queen in Missouri!  Every time I tell that story, I finish it with the punchline that “I’m sure the cuffs came right off when my client boarded the plane.”  I’m not faulting China and that really isn’t my point here.  But the disconnect between cultures is.  There is obviously a totally different meaning of ‘authenticity’ when you cross oceans.  You may recall the incident during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games when the seven year-old vocalist who was commissioned to sing ‘Ode to the Motherland’ was replaced by a prettier lip synching faker.  A recent Slate article reports on a whole new kind of counterfeiting: fake prisoners.  No kidding, guys.  People who are facing jail time in China can hire a less-fortunate guy to confess, or just replace him in the can.  This brings me to a whole new thought on the counterfeit enforcement business.  While diplomacy with China is important in the fight against counterfeit goods, raiding their factories and jailing their owners is probably not effective.

The  most important facet of my solution is to curtail the demand in the United States and other countries with a massive consumer base.  The way to do that is to enforce against all sellers of this product in those countries.  Contrary to the spirit voice in Field of Dreams, wise businessmen will tell you that supply does not dictate demand.  Stop promising your client you’re gonna get the “big factory” and focus on stopping the mid-level distributors here.  I promise your performance numbers will increase and, most important, you will help restore value and dignity to the client’s brand.  I know from great experience that many people who became huge sellers of counterfeit goods here in the United States would have stopped if they had just worn a pair of handcuffs early on.  One night in jail works wonders on the soul.  Enforcing the smaller crimes is part of the plan that makes many of our inner cities safer.  Curtailing vandalism in your neighborhood leads to less violence down the line.  In tough economic times it is easy to cut costs and focus on the biggest problems.  The problem with the latter is that no big problem started that way.  My suggestion to my readers is to simply place most of your efforts on the cities and countries with the highest retail sales of genuine product.  I’m not talking about the people selling fakes at swap meets or in the bad neighborhoods.  I’m speaking of the mid-level distributors who are getting their product directly from China and supplying those folks.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.


Top Ten Ways to Fight IP Cybercrime

I was recently interviewed by IQPC as a preview for my IPCybercrime Boot Camp that I will be giving in conjunction with their Anti-Counterfeiting & Brand Protection conference in San Francisco in January 2012.  This will be the second time I’ve partnered with them to do a Master Class.  Last year was a great time and I’m excited to kick off the New Year with my 2012 material at their event.  Please listen to the below podcast/video for a preview of some of the topics I will discuss.  You know you want to press ‘play’.  So do it.


Anatomy of an Idiot or: The Case of the Counterfeit Judge


Image via Wikipedia

As I regularly search for shows on my TiVo using keywords that relate to my interests and work, I ran across a rerun of ‘Swift Justice with Nancy Grace‘ that originally aired on 2/28/11 entitled “An online rip-off; pit bull puppies”.  This was caught in my filter because the word ‘knockoff’ was in the show’s description.  In this episode, the first case was of a woman who had purchased a pair of Coach boots from a website buymerchant.com.  Upon receipt of the boots, the Plaintiff stated that she believed they were counterfeit and was entitled to a refund of $174 USD.  Whether the goods in this case were actually counterfeit is actually not even relevant to what I’m about to share.  What followed was some of the most irresponsible judiciary-slash-journalistic behavior I have ever seen.

Grace first examines the boots saying, “If these are fake, I’ll buy ’em!  I’m all about fakes!”  She then hollers backstage, “Hey, bring me out my my ‘Frauda’!”  She giggled and looked back at the camera explaining, “My fake Prada.  I love it.”  As she brings the conversation back to the case on hand, she turns to the Plaintiff and uttered in a snarky drawl, “So… you don’t like fakes?”

After picking up my jaw from the atop my Birkenstock I witness Grace call in her ‘expert’  to authenticate the boots.  This guy’s qualifications were that he was a former employee at a Coach store.  Wait, it gets better.  As he makes his unconvincing case, Grace barks again and looks offstage, “Hey, bring me back my fake!”  Then she asks her expert to authenticate her ‘Frauda’.  He explains to her that it is counterfeit and that a real handbag of this type is of higher quality and would retail for about $1,500 USD.  Then Grace starts howling like a preacher with a bellyache with, “Fifteen… hundred… dollars?!?!?!  Do you know how long I’ve had this thing?  Five years.  That’s a good quality bag!”  Just as I did, you are probably asking if this idiot actually admitted to purchasing illegal goods, defend it and then promote the behavior from her bench on national television.  Yes.  She did.  You can witness an excerpt of the event for yourself by clicking this link here: http://www.swiftjustice.com/case_files/2011-02-28

While much of the civilized world is trying to discourage this type of contraband activity, we have a nitwit like this adjudicating cases with her own television show, and doling out legal advice on CNN.  While Nancy Grace is hosting ‘Swift Justice’, what she really needs is a swift kick in the rear end.

Wrap It Up. I’ll Take It.

Since I last posted, I have been to three conferences in two countries, hosted two events and conducted five hours of public speaking.  During this time, I’ve been in coffee shops and hotel rooms doing the marketing, bookkeeping, client meetings and other tasks required of a small businessman.  I am by no means a small man, but an entrepreneur thus the small business reference.  Here is a recap of my latest adventures:

On May 12th I was a featured speaker at the Trilateral Security Conference in Calgary, AB.  I gave my talk entitled “IP Cybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web”.  While attending I was able to try Alberta beef for the first time and, being from Texas I never thought I’d say this but, it was amazing.  I want more.  The city is beautiful and reminded me much of Fort Worth.  Large working class neighborhoods, evidence of more than a century of architecture and a very quaint upscale downtown club district.

My eight-day Boston trip included the company of a woman many of you know as “Wifey” of Facebook fame.  She and I flew in Tuesday and had dinner at Ristorante Limoncello with fellow Online Guy Nils Montan and his lovely wife Teresa.  Being in Boston’s North End I went straight for the linguini with clams and was far from disappointed.  The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition kicked off on Wednesday May 19th at 9am with a half-day presentation of my IP Cybercrime Boot Camp.  I was pleased with the turnout and thank the IACC for the opportunity to present.  Kudos to IACC President Bob Barcheisi for putting on yet another great conference.  The venue was the Hyatt Regency Boston on Ave de Lafayette which was great with the exception of below-par room services due to a strike which could not be avoided on our end.  The program was rich with topics, the committee meetings were productive and I believe attendance was an all-time high.

Over the weekend, Wifey and I took time to sleep in a bit, have a couple romantic dinners and take the very entertaining Ghosts and Gravestones tour of Boston after dark on Sunday.  Dinners at Bouchee Brasserie on Newbury and Kingfish Hall in Quincy Market were quite enjoyable.

By the beginning if the International Trademark Association Spring Meeting on Sunday my voice was completely shot.  As most of you know, talking is my favorite activity so this was not going stop me.  I vocally limped my way through the next four days while gorging on honey and lemon between meetings and events.  The first event to mention is the well-publicized IP Tweetup hosted by “The Online Guys” myself & Nils Montan.  Our RSVP list from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn totaled more than ninety and I suspect actual turnout was much higher.  This is beyond what would be expected for a pre-dinner happy hour.  Our sponsor Knowem brought three representatives to give a presentation and Q&A throughout.  It was so successful that we have already announced there will be a followup event next year in San Francisco.

Like many INTA attendees, I fill my days with meetings so I do regret to say I have no report on the daily sessions themselves.  Back to the nightlife.  Tuesday night I attended the reception hosted by law firm Duane Morris at the classy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  I have been to this firm’s events before and can say they know how to choose a nice venue to escape the madness of the legal world.  Speaking of venues one cannot mention this conference without raving about the Finnegan party at the House of Blues.  There were bands playing all night for what I estimate to have been over a thousand in attendance.  I think I even saw a few people swinging on chandeliers.  I was able to bump into dozens of friends and also made some new ones.

By the final day, I met many friends, made several new client relationships, closed a few business deals and became Mayor of my hotel on Foursquare.  Back home for a few days awaiting my next mission.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

The Whole World Vs. Competition

Corporate policy enforcement is often paradoxical.  The two faces of humanity clash in the office.  One is to compete for first place while the other appears to try to help others.  As someone who is commissioned to protect specific brands from being tarnished, I find myself in a position to tangentially help brands with whom I do not work.  I choose to do so out of goodwill.  I find that the practice of selflessness is something that brings me happiness.

The competition method is to make it so difficult for criminals to counterfeit your brand that they counterfeit others brands instead.  This is not terrible, but also not constructive outside the shareholder meetings.  In other words, the end result is more money.  Nothing else.  That may be enough for some, but others see there is a bigger picture.

Knockoff Report - Neighborhood WatchI was at a policy roundtable the other day and, when I expressed this concept, another participant disagreed.  His brilliant example was neighborhood watch.  He told me that the purpose of neighborhood watch is to cause the burglars to go to your neighbor’s house instead of yours.  I had to turn around to see if I was on candid camera.  Really, dude?  How much was your bill from law school?  Was there an ethics class or two?  Do they have a refund policy?  Remind me not to move to his neighborhood.  Neighborhood watch was set up to help neighbors protect each other.  This actually is a great example of the ‘Whole World’ approach.

I believe brands need to work more with each other as a policy.  Organizations like the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition are set up to assist brands in helping one another.  This great organization, in fact, is celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year.

The question I pose is this: Is it morally wrong to exclaim the dangers of counterfeiting professing the Whole World message while practicing the Competition method?

I say it is.  Helping your neighbor is its own reward.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

IP Investigator Caught Selling Fake Rolexes!

I was exploring websites of other investigators the other day and located one whose site was offering fake Rolex watches for $49.  Yes, that’s right.  It is not likely that his intention was to break the law, but that he is missing basic knowledge of how web advertising works.  When I first designed my own blog a few years back, the idea of adding a revenue stream to cheapen the credibility of my site with Google ads was a thought that crossed my mind.  Then it kept walking.  Google ads are placed on a site based on the keyword content.  Therefore any site that is part of the Google ad program that discusses counterfeit goods will have advertisements for counterfeit goods placed on it.  It is not rocket science.  I am just surprised to see someone in my line of work doing this.  I am not naming the investigator, as my purpose is to bring awareness to the danger of using Google ads on any site fighting the sale of fakes.  Likewise, his knowledge of the online space is probably not worth the paper on which his business card is printed.  Don’t be this guy.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

An Idiot’s Guide to Voting Smart

So I was at a political event in Downtown Dallas tonight and talked with a number of friends and acquaintances.  I also met a few new people namely some folks from the defense arena.  Not my favorite people but the man I support for D.A. invited me, oh, and there was free barbecue.

Among the new acquaintances with whom I had interesting conversation was a Judge.  I explained to her what I did for a living:  I help companies stop people from selling counterfeit products.  She responded by telling me that she had just returned from China and brought back a whole mess of counterfeit luxury items.  She immediately flogged into a “I know it supports terrorism, but they (vendors) are just businessmen” quibble.  I said, “You know its immoral to buy counterfeit products, right?”  She said it isn’t immoral because it’s not illegal to buy them, only to sell them.  And I’m thinking, “Right.  Am I on Candid Camera?”

I cocked my usual one-eyebrowed grin and gave her my best “are-you-really-this-much-of-a-dingbat?” look and excused myself to the bar.  Those of you who know me personally know I am not one to feign respect.  I shudder at the thought of the ignorance of some folks.

I told you that story in order to tell you this one…

This is one reason I have become politically active in the Dallas area, particularly Collin County, which is the most affluent county in the United States and a hub for worldwide corporations.  I am supporting judges’ candidacies whom I know to be educated on IPR issues.  One local candidate who impressed me, and I am supporting, is Dallas IP litigation attorney Wendy McMillon.  I know many of our organizations focus on lobbying DC and State Capitals (which is great), but do not forget that these local posts are the bricks and mortar of our society.  Fighting ignorance of IP theft starts at home.  Read up on your candidates, meet them, interview them, and vote for the smart ones.  Do it.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Origin of word “Counterfeit”

The English word “counterfeit” shows up in the language around 1250-1300, the time of so-called Middle English.  The word then was “countrefeten.”  This word, in turn, came from Middle French, where the word was “contrefait” or “contrefaire,” which meant to imitate an original article in a drawing or painting.

EXCLUSIVE: Holmes and the case of the naughty web host

On Friday August 28th, 2009 a jury in the Northern District of California found ISP/web hosts Akanoc Solutions, Inc., Managed Solutions Group, Inc. and Steven Chen liable for contributory trademark counterfeiting and awarded Plaintiff Louis Vuitton Malletier $32 Million.

This story is not only the first you will likely read on this case, but its author was the primary investigator and a witness for the Plaintiff.

Welcome to Akanoc SolutionsI first observed this group a few years ago doing business as Managed Solutions Group (MSG) when they were popping up as a US-based web host for China-based sellers of counterfeit goods.

A couple of my luxury brand clients asked me to look into this entity and I did.  I asked a colleague who is a higher-up at a major anti-spamming organization if he had ever heard of them.  His immediate response was, “Yeah.  They are spammers.”  He later clarified stating that they had positioned themselves as bulletproof hosts for spammers for some time.  He told me they had straightened their act in that industry after the CAN-SPAM Act was passed and made it a criminal act to facilitate such activity.

Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Akanoc Solutions, Inc. et al was a bold case and a years-long battle fueled by the passion of Vuitton’s in-house legal wizard Nikolay Livadkin and outside counsel Andy Coombs and Annie Wang of J. Andrew Coombs a P.C. A brilliant case was laid out that illustrated Akanoc, MSG & Chen’s non-compliance despite diligent efforts by Vuitton.

Laughably, Akanoc admitted that they complied with the requests of big companies like eBay and Microsoft but not with smaller companies such as my client.  I don’t know which part of that statement is more moronic: The Defendant sneezing at a 100 year-old company that made $24 Billion last year (triple eBay but less than Microsoft); or that they looked a federal judge in the eye and sneezed at the rights of all companies they did not perceive to be ‘big’.

The verdict is below and many interesting stories will arise.  There are many things to learn from this.  A few of which are:

  • Web hosts must not ignore the violation of anyone’s rights on their watch.
  • Don’t mess with Louis Vuitton.
  • Evidence produced by my office is far better than our competition and can help you win cases like this one.

For more information please contact me by phone at (972) 422-2100 or by email at rob@ipcybercrime.com.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Virtual Goods Market

virtual fakes Some of you may have been in attendance at one of my public appearances last year entitled “2008 Cyber-Review”.  In this presentation, I covered tips, tricks, trends & tactics that I thought were important to impart to you folks.  One of the trends about which I spoke was the virtual goods market.  I stated that brands needed to protect themselves from the sales of counterfeit virtual goods because it was only a matter of time that they themselves will tap this market for profit.

In the July/August issue of Fast Company Michael Fitzgerald writes, in an article entitled ‘Boomtown‘, that the virtual goods market is “attracting major brands, celebrities, and venture capital.  The money is real.”  Real to the tune of $1.8 Billion.

The world’s largest sneaker manufacturer attended one of my talks and I see they have, too, reaped benefit from this market and have tapped into an aftermarket for this as well.  Chicken or egg?  You decide.  Either way, hire someone to go online and start protecting your brands in virtual worlds.

Read Fitzgerald’s very educating article here.

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