Search This Blog

Loading...

Monday, May 25, 2015

COUNTERFEIT DIGEST: MAY 2015

By Sharon Wolff

This digest will be a (mostly) monthly update on counterfeit issues in the news. We subscribe to google alerts to keep current on all topics. I will include links, photos, commentary and descriptions. Arrests and existence of lawsuits do not indicate guilt. Outcomes and updates to cases may be listed in future posts as information becomes available.

We are not lawyers and trademarks, patents and copyrights belong to individual holders. Images and logos shown for purposes of discussion and education. Research is ongoing. We recognize that counterfeiting is an ongoing worldwide problem that is fueled by consumer demand and greed. 
Counterfeits not allowed at Wolff's Flea Market. 

BRANDS & CATEGORIES OF CONCERN
BRANDS: Beats By Dre, Coach, LG, Michael Kors, North Face, OtterBox,  Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Ugg
CATEGORIES: purses, jerseys, clothing, sun glasses, headphones/earbuds, phone cases, phone cables, chargers

20/20 "To Catch a Fake"
5/15/15-Year-long investigation on counterfeits:
http://abc.go.com/shows/2020/listing/2015-05/15-2020-051515-to-catch-a-fake

CONSUMER REPORTS
Article, "How to tell real from ripoff" http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/05/counterfeit-goods-how-to-tell-real-from-ripoff/index.htm

FLEA MARKETS
South Carolina (Noteworthy from March 2015)-Flea market vendors arrested 
Florida (Noteworthy from April 2015)-Swap Shop flea market owner settles with Louis Vuitton over counterfeits:
Massachusetts-Arrest for pirated DVD & CDs:

CUSTOMS
Texas-Airport bust:
Florida-Counterfeit auto parts:
Connecticut-Counterfeit tricks:

ALIBABA
Alibaba sued by Kering (Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent): http://money.cnn.com/2015/05/17/investing/alibaba-lawsuit-fakes/ 

Alibaba's growth affected by counterfeit allegations:

STORES
Louisiana-Store owners plead guilty to selling counterfeit merchandise:
Ohio-Store owner admits to selling counterfeits:

SOCCER JERSEYS
California-Man pleads guilty to selling counterfeit soccer jerseys:
http://www.sandiego6.com/news/local/Chula-Vista-man-admits-to-selling--305050821.html?m=y&smobile=y

COSMETICS
The dangers of counterfeit makeup:
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/21/counterfeit-makeup_n_7356884.html

ETSY
Stock plummets 8% amid counterfeit and trademark violations.
http://money.cnn.com/2015/05/11/investing/etsy-stock-fall-counterfeit-warning/ 

ETSY, ALIBABA, EBAY, AMAZON
How these Internet sites handle counterfeits:
http://www.thestreet.com/story/13161841/1/how-alibaba-etsy-ebay-and-amazon-deal-with-counterfeit-goods.html

WHOLESALERS
North Carolina-Man arrested at wholesaler for selling counterfeit purses (noteworthy from April 2015):
http://myfox8.com/2015/03/24/man-arrested-after-detectives-seize-counterfit-purses-at-his-lexington-business/

ARRESTS
Tennessee (noteworthy from March 2015)-Arrested for selling counterfeit purses, North Face, Ugg- http://www.wjhl.com/story/28354839/man-woman-arrested-for-selling-fake-high-end-goods-in-sullivan-county
TYPICAL COUNTERFEIT MICHAEL KORS PURSE. Removable emblem. (Photo WJHL)


COUNTERFEIT NORTH FACE (Photo WJHL)


COUNTERFEIT UGG BOOTS (Photo WJHL)


COUNTERFEIT TORY BURCH  PURSE -we have not seen these (Photo WJHL)
COUNTERFEIT COACH PURSE (Photo WJHL)

Friday, May 8, 2015

COUNTERFEITS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS -WOLFF'S FLEA MARKET

COUNTERFEIT FAQ
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
BY SHARON WOLFF Creative Media & Merchandise Consultant to Wolff's Flea market
(We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. Information here is gathered from our experience and ongoing research. Counterfeits are not allowed at Wolff's Flea Market. Vendors are responsible for monitoring their own merchandise.)
Questions?     847-524-9590     wolffs.com 
  1. WHAT IS A COUNTERFEIT? Counterfeit products are illegal fake copies of real products. People knowingly or unknowingly buy or sell counterfeits. Other terms: fake, copy, replica, forgery, knock-off, bootleg, pirated, unlicensed, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, look-alike.
  2. IS THERE A LAW? The Lanham Trademark Act is the federal law prohibiting counterfeits. It bans the use of: copied pictures, words, symbols, logos, etc. except to original trademark owners. This law protects brands and their intellectual property.
  3. WHY DON’T YOU ALLOW COUNTERFEITS? We strive to uphold the law and maintain our market as a legitimate shopping venue. 
  4. WHO CARES? We care because counterfeit products are illegal, deceptive and poor quality. Brand owners, private investigators, US Customs, other governmental agencies send people into flea markets to raid, arrest and sue individuals and market owners.
  5. WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE COUNTERFEITED? In one word: EVERYTHING. Every brand and type of item is vulnerable. 
  6. WHAT DOES “CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR” MEAN? A pattern, logo or packaging design that closely resembles the real item and causes you at first or second glance think it is the real item. A brand name or logo may not be present, but a pattern or writing may be very similar. Other terms: trademark dilution
  7. #3 IS REAL. THE OTHER PATTERNS
     ARE CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR/DILUTED 

    AND BANNED.
  8. WHY DO STORES SELL “COMPARE TO” ITEMS IN SIMILAR BOXES? Comparative advertising is legal in the US if item is “clearly identified, truthful, and non-deceptive) (wikipedia). However, we occasionally see lawsuits between companies. 
  9. WHAT ABOUT THOSE  SPORTS “PARODY” T-SHIRTS? We currently allow limited designs that do not use the name of a team or certain parts of logos. This is an subjective and gray area of ongoing research and may change at any time.
  10. COME ON, IT’S A FLEA MARKET, PEOPLE DON’T EXPECT TO FIND THE REAL THING HERE! It is illegal to sell counterfeits, wherever you are. We work hard to maintain our reputation for offering legitimate goods and NO counterfeits. 
  11. WHAT IF I TELL THE BUYER THAT IT IS COUNTERFEIT? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise.
  12. THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T CARE AND WANTS IT It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise. We recognize that the counterfeit industry is fueled by consumer demand for look-alike cheap products.
  13. WHAT IF IT IS ONLY ONE ITEM? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise.
  14. WHAT IF I DIDN’T KNOW? Well, now you know, so put it away. Repeat offenders may be ejected from the market.
  15. WHAT IF IT IS USED? It is illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise.
  16. WHAT ABOUT “THAT GUY”? If you see someone selling banned merchandise, please give us a space number and we will check it out. You may do this anonymously. 
  17. CAN I JUST SELL IT TODAY? NO. It is illegal to sell counterfeits. 
    CUSTOMS AND PORTS OF ENTRY
     (click on photo to read small print)
  18. WHY WAS I ABLE TO BUY THESE COUNTERFEITS TO BEGIN WITH? We enforce our own rules, and cannot answer for the manufacturer, importer, store, guy, other flea market, website or wholesaler you bought the counterfeit from. Counterfeiting is a worldwide problem that is not limited to flea markets. At least 80% of counterfeits are from China and only a fraction are stopped at ports of entry. Some components separately enter the country through regular mail and are assembled into counterfeits
    A COUNTERFEIT MICHAEL KORS EMBLEM
    WAS PLACED ON A CHEAP BLANK YELLOW PURSE
    here. Arrests can and do happen, so we need to stop it HERE and NOW 
  19. BANNED BRANDS
  20. WHAT IS WOLFF’S DOING TO STOP COUNTERFEITS? 
  • We have a 3 part program of Prevention-Intervention-Education (PIE)
  • We conduct ongoing research
  • We monitor over 100 vulnerable brands and licenses. We do not allow certain highly counterfeited brands: Coach, Louis Vuitton, MAC, Beats by Dre, Otterbox, Lifeproof, Gucci, Chanel
  • We monitor 8 categories of merchandise: Electronics/Phone Accessories, Purses, CDs/DVDs, Clothing, Perfume/Cosmetics, Jewelry/Sunglasses, Toys, Licensed Sports Apparel 
  • We analyze products according to many parameters.
  • We use hands-on training with photos and items to teach staff and vendors about counterfeits
  • We vigilantly patrol our markets 
   19.  HOW DOES YOUR POLICY PROTECT US? Our policy keeps customers from making      fraudulent purchases, prevents vendors from arrest and protects the flea market from vicarious liability lawsuits for allowing counterfeit sales. Flea market raids occur all around the country. Designers Coach and Louis Vuitton have won millions of dollars from lawsuits against flea market owners.
  • Vendor arrests: NY, IL, WI, IN, TX, FL, MO, KY, SC, MA
  • Coach: Swap Shop, FL ($5.5M), Visitors Flea Market, FL ($42M/bankruptcy), New Hampshire, Chicago, 
  • Louis Vuitton: Eisenhauer, TX ($3.6M), Swap Shop, FL (undisclosed, but over $5.5M)
Questions?     847-524-9590     wolffs.com 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CUTE COUNTERFEITS ARE STILL COUNTERFEIT

Our Bottom Line: 
Counterfeits are Illegal and 
Banned at our Markets. 
Even if they are cheap, used, cute, etc.

Over the years, I have had many discussions about counterfeit purses with both vendors and customers.

REAL QUOTES:

"I like the purse because it is cute"
"I would never buy the real thing"
"I can't afford the real thing"
"I don't care if it falls apart in a month"
"It was so cheap"
"It's not hurting anyone"
"I want to wear that brand, but won't buy a real one"
"Everyone knows it's not real, so it's ok"
"It might be real"
"No one will notice that it is fake"
"It looks really good for a fake"
"I know it is real and I got it at a great price"

I can argue each point, but for now will focus on the "Cute Factor".

Over the years I have amassed a large selection of new and used counterfeit items. Many were found at thrift shops (passively sold as fakes). Other sources include vendor gifts (they love to help the anti-counterfeit cause), dumpsters (true story), online sites, area wholesalers.

I am continually impressed and amused by varying degrees of effort that manufacturers put into a fake-then consistently neglect important details
DIDN'T WE LEARN HOW TO SPELL 
"WITH" IN FIRST GRADE?
THEY COULDN'T EVEN COPY 
THE LETTERS TO 
CORRECTLY SPELL "JERSEY"

Most of the fakes I have collected are stupid, ugly and obvious. A few required up to a couple of hours to figure out was was wrong.

It was not until today that I found what I consider to be an potential "Cute Counterfeit". I knew this bag was bad as soon as I spotted it from afar at the thrift shop. Upon closer inspection, it was even more obvious that the details and stitching were horrendous. But the problem was that it was just a little cute. Maybe I will never understand what people feel when they buy a cute counterfeit, but I may have almost felt a tiny stirring if not for the fact that the bag claimed to be Louis Vuitton and I hated it on the spot. 

I did buy the bag for my educational Haul of Shame and to keep it "off the streets".

DON'T LET THE POTENTIAL CUTENESS TRICK YOU!
THIS BAG IS A FAKE! 
CUTE COUNTERFEITS ARE STILL COUNTERFEIT!



WE SHOULD MAKE THESE!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ENTER THE RESEARCH ZONE - TIPS

This educational document was shared with other flea market participants during my round table discussion at the 2015 National Flea Market Association Conference in Las Vegas.

Prologue:
If you read this post, you will understand that we take merchandise research very seriously. Sometimes we can determine that an item is authentic or counterfeit right on the spot or in just a few moments. Other times, we may need to send the item to The Research Zone. This paper offers tips for conducting your own research.

*Remember - we do not authenticate or allow the following brands (new/used/real/fake): Coach, Louis Vuitton, OtterBox, LifeProof, Chanel, Gucci, MAC and sometimes others.

Believe me when I tell you that shopping at the mall for me is completely ruined now. It is no longer a relaxing stroll. It is no longer a place to people watch or look at pretty things just for the heck of it.

I cannot be placed in a retail setting without my Research Zone buzzer awakening my Counterfighter mentality. Invariably, some designer or licensed item grabs my attention and draws me in.

A typical example: I am walking with my family, engaged in conversation, and from afar I see the Journeys sign and their doorway display of Converse Allstars. I craftily duck inside the store because I remember one tiny detail I needed to confirm on the sole of an authentic Chuck Taylor shoe so that I could compare it with something I saw at the market. Observers might find me weird as they watch me pick up the shoe, feel its weight and then rub the sole like a magic lamp... One reason my family doesn't follow me.

They are up ahead looking for ice cream. But before I can catch up, I notice the Lids store and want to confirm a secret bit of New Era authentication information that I may figured out on my own. I won't tell you what it is, but I quizzed myself on a half dozen hats, and felt refreshed and good to go. Yes, it was unusual for someone to be flipping hats willy nilly, but I put them back.

Done and Done.

By now my family has finished their ice cream and is ready to go.



WE AREN’T LAWYERS. THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. We share with you a few helpful analytical skills, sources & strategies. We do not authenticate designer handbags and ban the sale of certain brands. Your awareness of counterfeit identification can lend credibility to your position.
ENTER THE RESEARCH ZONE-TIPS
WOLFF’S FLEA MARKET 2015

ON THE SPOT ONLINE RESEARCH
  1. Use the Red Laser bar code scanner app on your phone. What comes up? Correct item? Different item? Retail store? Amazon/eBay listing? Numbers? Nothing? Be suspicious if there is no bar code on a package.
  2. Counterfeiters generate & replicate accurate bar codes, so a scan might not tell the whole story
  3. Brand’s official website-does item exist? How much should it (or a comparable item) cost?
  4. Search (BRAND NAME) + COUNTERFEIT, CHEAP, WHOLESALE, REPLICA, etc.
  5. Google search for informational/comparative “guides” regarding commonly counterfeited brands
  6. Search example: “How to tell the difference between real and fake (BRAND NAME)”
NO QUICK ANSWER? GO SHOPPING!
IF IT'S NOT ONE THING,
THEN IT'S ANOTHER
  1. Examine authentic products at retail stores
  2. Take notes on item details, labels, wording, packaging
  3. If comfortable, ask an employee for permission to open a package.
  4. If possible, take pictures
  5. Purchase authentic items for study
  6. Call a brand’s customer service # with questions. This action provides inconsistent results. Answers are only as good as the representative’s ability and willingness to stray from script and connect you to a knowledgeable person. Be patient.
  7. Find a helpful expert, vendor, store manager/employee or brand representative
BUY/BORROW A FAKE FOR STUDY
  1. Online sources that sell real and counterfeit products: eBay, Amazon, craigslist
  2. Do you know of a store that wholesales brand name items to your vendors?
  3. Ask vendor if you can borrow the item in question or pay their cost to obtain for your research (vendors may even give it to you-and of course also remove other offending merchandise).
  4. Purchase counterfeit purses at local thrift shops. Don’t even get us started on this subject...
  5. A nice employee might be willing to go dumpster diving if you promise to bake him chocolate chip cookies.
ONGOING RESEARCH & SEARCH TERMS
  1. Fortunately, you can apply the same parameters to many types of counterfeit merchandise
  2. Unfortunately, you cannot apply the same parameters to all types of counterfeit merchandise
  3. Keep current with news, raids, arrests, trademark lawsuits, popular/in-demand products, brands, logos
  4. Subscribe to Google Alerts for relevant keywords and phrases: (also use as SEARCH TERMS)
  • Counterfeit, arrest, lawsuit + purses, handbag, phone cases, clothing, NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, etc.
  • Apple, Samsung, other tech or electronic brands
  • Counterfeit, arrest, lawsuit + designers (Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Michael Kors, etc.)
  • Counterfeit + Arrest
  • Counterfeit + flea market, swap meet, store, website, kiosk, customs
  • Ice.gov, Homeland security + counterfeit
  • Lawsuit + counterfeit, trademark, dilution
  • OTHER
HELPFUL INFORMATION/SOURCES/GUIDES
  1. thecounterfeitreport.com
  2. ebay guides
  3. spotfakehandbags.com
  4. ice.gov
  5. iacc.org
  6. uspto.gov
  7. TTAB
  8. ipcybercrime.com
COUNTERFEIT MERCHANDISE SOURCES
Missing here is our directory of known counterfeit sites. We visit those sites for research, but do not feel comfortable publicizing them to the world. Unfortunately they are too easy to find.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LEARN TO IDENTIFY LOW LEVEL COUNTERFEIT PURSES

One of the cheapest ways to make a counterfeit purse is to simply take a no-name "blank" purse and add a designer sticker or metal emblem.

So obvious, so fake, so illegal.

We don't allow counterfeit purses of any level at Wolff's Flea Market, and this educational post should not be construed as instructions on how to make a counterfeit purse. Don't do it.

Images and links shown for purposes of discussion and education.

People are arrested and imprisoned for this crime!

This happened at flea markets and supports our policy of not allowing certain brands of merchandise at our markets

Below are a couple of examples.  If you see an alleged designer purse boasting an emblem, just pick on the label to see if it is a pull-off sticker or a loosely secured metal emblem.

Then. Walk. Away.

Or, if you are me, pull the fake tag off and add it to your sick collection.


Close-up of counterfeit PRADA clip-on emblem


The blank purse is sort of cute. Ridiculously ruined by a fake GUCCI clip-on emblem


Forgot to polish my nails