Welcome 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.