I had an article published on Cybersquatting in the December 2010 issue of PI Magazine. I interviewed investigator David Woods of Associated Investigative Services and Tim Santoni of National Trademark Investigations . If you’d like to review the article, use the link below and register with PI Magazine to receive the December 2010 issue.
Most people think of counterfeits as involving fake Rolex watches and Louis Vuittan bags—but there is no limit to the number and kinds of consumer products that can be counterfeited, including wine. In what was a clever scheme, Rudy Kumiawan was ordered to pay $28.4 million in restitution to seven victims and forfeit an addition $20 million for selling fake wine in August, 2014.
Kumiawan, who was one of the world’s foremost wine collectors, knew many of the collectors who were in the market for rare and centuries-old wine. [To read a good article on rare vintage wines, see article by Patrick-Radden Keefe entitled “The Jefferson Bottles,” that appeared in The New Yorker in Sept. 3, 2007]
Mr. Kurniawan mixed the wines in his home kitchen and used fake labels. Because of his reputation as a wine collector, Kurniawan was able to swindle some of the country’s wealthiest people and leading wine enthusiasts.
One collector who was duped paid a quarter of a million dollars for a bottle of what Mr. Kumiawan palmed off as a rare wine.
Police raided Mr. Kurniawan’s home in Arcadia, Calif. His computer was seized and found to contain files with scanned images of rare wine labels. Many empty wine bottles were also seized.
The Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, better known as the “IP Czar” is Daniel H. Marti, managing partner in the D.C. office of the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. He was appointed in April, 2015.
One of Marti’s first tasks after being nominated has been to reconstitute the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinating Committee, of which he is the chair, with senior department and agency heads.
Marti will also coordinate U.S. law-enforcement strategy around copyright, patents and trademarks and also the continuation of the White House’s Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.
The Strategic Plan was put together by Marti’s predecessor, Victoria A. Espinel. It contains a wealth of information about the counterfeiting problem.
Counterfeit products have allegedly been sold on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for many years, as well as on Taobao, one of Alibaba’s platforms.
Alibaba installed a good faith takedown program, which took effect April 1, 2015, to deal with the sale of counterfeit products offered for sale. Brands registering for the program have their complaints reviewed in one to three business days, compared to five to seven days previously. Additionally, a customer service official has been assigned to oversee the program.
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has developed a unique financial program in the battle against counterfeiting. It’s called the RogueBlock® program, launched in January, 2012.
RogueBlock® is a “follow the money” tool that allows rights holders to report online sellers of counterfeit goods to enforcement agencies, as well as credit card and financial services companies.
Participating intellectual property rights holders utilize a secure online portal for sending information that goes through a network mapping analysis developed by the IACC; this is to avoid duplication and to identify suitable targets for takedown investigation. The network mapping analysis is coordinated with government enforcement agencies, credit card, and financial services companies.
The program has experienced great success and that, since 2012, our credit card partners and participating members have frozen nearly 5,000 merchant accounts and impacted almost 200,000 websites.
The program was enhanced in 2015 to include suspending and locking down an infringer’s websites in addition to terminating payment services.
In an informal poll conducted by NewYork Magazine in 2012, two interns conducted sidewalk interviews of one-hundred random sidewalk interviews about file sharing. Nearly everyone polled admitted to engaging in file sharing—and, interestingly enough, a majority said they also subscribed to iTunes or Netflix, sites that offer either music or movies for a monthly fee. It would seem that file sharing can co-exist with pay subscription services that offer the same content. Yet, the reality is quite different. This poll was taken the same year after several highly publicized events involving file sharing.
In January, 2012 the FBI raided the file-sharing site Megaupload. Criminal charges were brought against the owners who went to prison. A few months later, the founders of the notorious BitTorrent file sharing site Pirate Bay were sentenced to prison terms in Sweden. That same year, massive public protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property ACT (PIPA), both directed against P2P file sharing, led to the scrapping of both Acts without a vote in either the House or Senate. Wikipedia, Google and other sites held one day moratoriums to protest the two Acts, while members of Congress were inundated with e-mail protests. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was essentially scrapped in 2012 when many countries in the European Union refused to ratify the Agreement because of massive e-mail and 1960s-style street protests in Romania, Germany and other European countries.
File sharing was certainly a hot topic in 2012!
What was amazing is how quickly the activists mobilized to protest SOPA in the United States and ACTA in Europe. The protesters numbered in the hundreds of thousands, even millions. The word was spread through a handful of grassroots coalitions that spread the news on the Internet.
The current book I’m writing has a working title of: “How P2P File Sharing is Shaping the Internet will be a monograph on P2P file sharing.” I’ve finished a chapter on Napster and another chapter on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
I’m amazed at how successful Napster was, because it didn’t advertise. The lawsuit filed by the RIAA and other music companies helped send Napster to the front pages.
A picture of a steamroller flattening seized fake watches was used to create one of two book covers for my upcoming novel, The Counterfeit Detective. At this juncture, it will likely be selected for the book cover rather than the other book cover design.
A publicity picture acquired from Cartier Watch Company that was used in my book Trademark Counterfeiting, Product Piracy, and the Billion Dollar Threat to the U.S. Economy was the inspiration for the book cover. Years ago, Cartier sectioned off a portion of Fifth Avenue and lined it with seized counterfeit watches, and then used a steamroller to flatten them. The fake watches were ones seized by private investigator David Woods.
Note: I scanned and tried to upload the black and white publicity photo but it didn’t look good . . . so you’ll have to buy my non-fiction book on trademark counterfeiting to see the photo.
In crafting the PI character for my upcoming novel “The Counterfeit Detective,” I took inspiration from Andy Warhol, a commercial artist who moved to New York City in the hope of a career as an artist. Although successful as a commercial artist, he failed to find a place in the art establishment until he turned his artistic talents to the Pop Art Movement and created his most famous work Thirty-two Campbell’s Soup Cans.
Pop Art was conceived as anti-art, a revolt against fine art by using the commercial art found in advertising as well as images from mass media. Warhol saw art in the Campbell’s Soup trademark and the packaging, referred to as the trade dress in the industry. His vision was consistent with Pop Art’s anti-art theme, because the purpose of a Campbell’s Soup trademark is to sell soup. Until Pop Art was introduced, fine art had nothing to do with selling consumer products. Many art critics derided Pop Art and called it “fake.” The initial showing of the Thirty-two Campbell’s Soup Cans fared poorly; over time it was recognized as a masterpiece.
Theo Jones, the failed actor turned PI, pursues counterfeit trademarks (trademark counterfeiting) and his personal dilemma, his longing to continue as an artist and to be true to himself, reflects Warhol’s quest to become an artist. Jones is reborn during the course of the story and rediscovers his passion for his craft as a result and, like Warhol, fulfills his dream of becoming an artist.
America had few, if any, apparel designers until the late 1960’s. Along came designers like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and George Marciano to name a few. These designers built their apparel empires by way of brand marketing, which originated as an advertising strategy after World War II. The idea was to create brand awareness in the consumer through advertisements and then branch out to other consumer products and services.
While researching my book on Trademark Counterfeiting, I interviewed a former assistant corporate counsel for Levi Strauss about designer jeans. He said “designer jeans, acid and stone washed jeans, are no better than your average pair of Levi 501s. The technology hasn’t advanced that much.”
Brand marketing and a strong marketing campaign helped build an empire for Ralph Lauren whose ubiquitous polo player symbol is used to sell polo shirts, dress shirts, tee-shirts., socks, cologne and other consumer items. Brand marketing was used by Calvin Klein who created ads featuring fifteen year old Brooke Shields wearing CK jeans, and Murjani which launched Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans with a swan logo. Brand development is used by many corporations. For instance Harley Davidson has branched out into theme restaurants and apparel; Caterpillar, the maker of tractors, has work boots; and so on. Many female celebrities have lent their name to perfume and apparel.
Designer jeans were a big hit and topped the list of apparel sold in the United States. This was the hippie generation who wore jeans because they were a working man’s clothes.
However, the downside was that the jeans were easy to counterfeit. Much of the apparel was manufactured in Mexico and in Asia where the cost of labor is cheaper and this contributed to the counterfeiting onslaught. Selling counterfeit jeans and apparel became widespread and remains so to this day. Apparel and luggage manufacturers spend millions in combating the counterfeiters. Louis Vuitton spends about five percent of its revenue fighting counterfeiters.