One of the most harmful and disgusting counterfeit products ever encountered is so-called “gutter oil”—so named because it is cooking oil that is made from sewer refuse, left-over oil from restaurant fryers, and rotten animal fat or slaughterhouse waste. Nearly all of it is produced in China and is often sold to small restaurants. At one time nearly one-tenth of China’s cooking oil was gutter oil.
Gutter oil was first discovered in 1985 in Taiwan. Twenty-two people were arrested for involvement in a recycling oil ring. Reprocessing and filtration of gutter oil was primitive, mostly boiling and skimming off of larger adulterated matter.
The Chinese government initiated a nationwide campaign in 2011, which led to the shutting down of about one hundred manufacturers. Continued enforcement has led to other arrests. The Taiwanese police arrested a man named Chang Guann, a major lard supplier in 2014. Guann had purchased over 200 tons of gutter oil and sold it throughout Southeast Asia.
Since its launch in 1992, Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos (CAPS) has seized over 10 million pieces of counterfeit sports merchandise on behalf of its major league and collegiate members. CAPS values the merchandise it has seized at over $389 million.
The volume of merchandise seized by CAPS is a reflection of the success and consumer demand for sports-related apparel bearing the trademarks and names of big league players like Michael Jordan and others. According to statistics provided by the International Licensing Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) in 2014,the sports category had $698 million in royalty revenue on retail sales of $12.8 billion, while a separate collegiate category had revenues from licensing estimated at $209 million, or $3.88 billion at retail.
Pete Rozelle who started out as the head of public relations for the Los Angeles Rams and became Commissioner of the NFL in 1959, is largely responsible for the major leagues moving into sports licensing. Rozelle established National Football League (NFL) Properties in 1963. The other major leagues followed with Major League Baseball Properties, formed in 1966. The National Basketball Association Properties was formed in 1967. The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), formed in 1981, licenses and markets apparel and other items for over 200 colleges and universities.
Remember Hydrox Cookies? Well, they’re ba-a-a-ck.
On Wednesday (9/23) Ellia Kassoff of Leaf Brands was interviewed on WNYC on how he obtained the Hydrox trademark so he could relaunch Hydrox Cookies.
Hydrox was trademarked by the Sunshine Company that first made Hydrox Cookies over a hundred years ago. Kassoff discovered that Kelloggs owns the trademark and did something private investigators who specialize in IP do all the time: he called the company and spoke to a customer service rep, who told him Hydrox Cookies had been discontinued and there were no plans to bring the product (or its trademark) back into commerce. Kassoff wrote to the USPTO and the mark was declared abandoned.
Kassoff’s company, Leaf Brands, now owns the mark. Kassoff will be going head-to-head with Oreo Cookies. That will be quite a feat. Worldwide one in 20 cookies sold is an Oreo. Oreo Cookies got a big write up in this week’s New York Magazine (See: “Treats: The Oreo Boom”). Oreo sales are up 60 percent over the past decade and exceed $2.5 billion. Hydrox’s marketing pitch will center on its not using corn syrup.
Operation Red Zone was the largest seizure of sports-related apparel in history; a nationwide enforcement operation which began in September, 2012 and concluded six months later, with seizures of professional sports apparel and souvenirs amounting to $17.3 million in MSRP–196,333 items including fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets, sweatshirts. Sports jerseys accounted for nearly 29 percent of all seized counterfeits.
Special agents from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and state and local police departments around the country worked in partnership with the NFL and other major sports leagues during the operation.
Operation Red Zone not only targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise as it entered the United States, but also focused on warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors. 168 counterfeit tickets for the SuperBowl were also seized with an MSRP of more than $154,000. Forty-one individuals were arrested nationwide during the operation including six federal and 35 state and local arrests
“Sneaker Culture” is an art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of the Art that has approximately 150 pairs of sneakers on display and looks at the evolution of the sneaker from its beginnings to its current role as status symbol and urban icon. The popularity of sneakers has also spawned a huge market for counterfeits. The quality is very good and most of the fakes come from China.
A book was recently self-published on Amazon with the title: Mustle: I Must Hustle: How I made $50,000 Selling Counterfeit Shoes from the Trunk of My Car by Team9 Logic. I don’t expect any readers of this blog to buy the book, although someone should arrest the author for his chutzpah.
Many counterfeits target consumers who will pay thousands of dollars for limited-edition designer sneakers; these have panache with sneaker aficionados because only a limited number were produced. eBay and Instagram are good outlets for fake shoes because the customer can’t inspect the shoes until they arrive. I’ve read that 90 percent of the sneakers sold on eBay are fake.
I met Will Nix, former head of the Motion Picture Association’s Anti-Piracy program, while researching my book on trademark counterfeiting. He provided invaluable information, including speeches he had presented and personal interviews about the MPAA’s piracy problem. He was instrumental in establishing the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) in 1983 to battle what was a huge piracy problem in Europe, especially the United Kingdom. London was the center of motion picture piracy with an estimated eighty percent of the market gone pirate. Belgium was an estimated 70 to 75 percent; Ireland 50 percent. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, a Steven Spielberg film and one of the most popular films of all time, was never legitimately released on video cassette in any country outside the United States because of piracy.
Today FACT is the UK’s leading trade organization to protect and represent the intellectual property rights of its members’ intellectual property (IP). The creative industries support 1.7 million jobs in the UK and account for over 5% of the UK economy.
FACT has many innovative programs, like the Fact Certification Scheme, which currently covers over 110 companies of all sizes and is administered by FACT on behalf of its members. Businesses wishing to provide services to the audio-visual industry must satisfy members they have sufficiently high levels of security in order to safeguard the intellectual property rights of FACT.
One of the largest online pharmacies in Canada, NorthWestPharmacy.com, a large Canadian online pharmacy, has recently issued a warning to consumers about unaccredited “Canadian pharmacies.” Of particular concern are websites that purportedly offer Canada’s drugs from a Canadian pharmacy without a prescription to Americans.
The warning comes in the wake of the indictment of Ram Kamath of Downers Grove, Illinois by the U.S. Justice Dept. for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to distribute $78 million worth of non-FDA approved counterfeit cancer medications through CanadaDrugs.com. The indictment was filed in US district court in Montana charging CanadaDrugs and its affiliates in the United Kingdom and Barbados with smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy.
CanadaDrugs’ affiliates bought their non-FDA authorized or mislabeled drugs abroad and shipped them to the United States to sell to physicians at lower prices compared with the U.S. equivalents, according to the indictment. The money would go to the company’s Barbados affiliate, which would then send the profits to Canada, the indictment said.
The FDA began investigating CanadaDrugs.com’s distribution of counterfeit versions of the cancer drug Avastin in 2012. Narinder Kaulder is alleged to have helped supply fake Avastin and is believed to be the head of operations for a U.K. drug wholesaler called River East Supplies, LTD. According to the indictment, River East was a subsidiary through which CanadaDrugs conducted its “clinical sales.”
The International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol has a staff of over 700 and has its headquarters in Lyons, France. It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) in 1923 and adopted its telegraphic address as its common name in 1956.
Interpol is not a police force, but is more of an intelligence gathering agency that liaisons with criminal law enforcement agencies and other agencies from different countries. It is expressly forbidden to engage in any intervention of a political, religious, or racial character. It is chiefly concerned with terrorism, human rights violations, genocides, organized crime, and the trafficking of drugs, guns, and counterfeit merchandise.
INTERPOL Notices are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information. Interpol has other colored notices (Black, Green, etc.) covering various criminal activities. A blue notice is a request for more information about a particular individual in connection with a crime. A black is a request for more information about an unidentified body.
Notices are published by INTERPOL’s General Secretariat at the request of National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and authorized entities, and can be published in any of the Organization’s official languages: Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
In the case of Red Notices, the persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on an arrest warrant or court decision. INTERPOL’s role is to assist the national police forces in identifying and locating these persons with a view to their arrest and extradition or similar lawful action.