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.
Sherri Schornstein is the US Attorney that pioneered much of the investigations we see practiced today. Be it Intellectual Property, or just web-related. Since the web has become relevant, Schornstein has been a major enforcement figure. I was honored to be a part of her project when she asked. In this book, “Criminal Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights: U.S. Perspective”, I gave an interview that provided insight into the world of counterfeiting online. My small niche was a drop in the bucket when it came to the overall concept of criminal enforcement of IP rights as a whole. What Schornstein did was find the elite minds in the Intellectual Property world and, not just mesh their data, into a bunch of talking heads. What she did was take their information and tell a story. Don’t just take my word for it…
Counterfeiting and piracy were once limited to T-shirts and music sold on street corners. Today, copyright owners encounter infringers more often than customers. Counterfeit goods are sold via the Internet to consumers and wind their way through supply chains into everything from cell phones to weapons platforms. Rights owners suffer brand diminution and economic loss. Counterfeits threaten public health and safety, causing unscheduled maintenance, property damage, physical injury, and even death. Some counterfeits imperil national security by jeopardizing military readiness and mission success enabling cyber espionage, while negatively impacting the safety of service members. Theft of trade secrets derails fair competition and deprives businesses of the fruits of their investments. Economic espionage can imperil national security through the compromise of military technologies.
In Criminal Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights: U.S. Perspective, career federal prosecutor Sherri Schornstein demystifies the criminal legal process by guiding readers through the federal prosecution maze. She offers detailed information about criminal enforcement, including the roles of government agencies and how private industry can develop case referrals. She also provides cross-industry interviews with former high-ranking government insiders, investigators, attorneys, academics, and brand protection professionals who share experiences concerning the enforcement challenge. This book will be a valuable addition to every industry sector and a resource for those in other countries seeking to understand how the U.S. criminal justice system addresses IP crime.
The International Trademark Association annual Leadership Meeting in Miami Beach is underway. The closing session on Saturday Nov 16th is entitled eDiscovery: Obtaining Electronic Documents without any Glitches.
The moderator is legendary attorney Susan Kayser (Partner, Jones Day) who will be fielding questions with Rob Holmes (CEO, IPCybercrime.com LLC), Douglas ‘Chip’ Rettew (Partner, Finnegan LLP) & Jed Wakefield (Partner, Fenwick & West LLP).
This will not be your mother’s eDiscovery panel. There will be mojitos served and lots of good chit chat. Actually, I’m working on the mojitos. We’ll see if the association approves it. I wonder if they’ll let me bring sand on the stage….
The topics covered will vary from the latest rules decreed by US courts to International considerations. What does the process cost? What third-party organizations exist to foil your efforts? Are there standards to follow? What are the best practices to follow for collection and production? All of this will be addressed and more in this fun panel on the beaches of Miami with mojito in hand.
If you haev any interested in this topic and enjoy a good mojito you MUST NOT miss this.
As a part of a federal grant program, the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) along with the National Association of Attorney’s General (NAGTRI) are addressing law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the state and local level in St. Louis, Missouri tomorrow, September 17th at William J. Harrison Education Center located at St. Louis Community College. The project was created to raise awareness and give support to law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the state and local level all over the nation in the area of Intellectual Property Rights. Rob Holmes, CEO of IPCybercrime, will present his talk entitled IPCybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web where he demonstrates the relationships between sellers of fakes and elaborate criminal organizations.
Following Holmes’ presentation will be other dynamic speakers including: Michelle Boykins (National Crime Prevention Council), Judy McKee (National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute), Keith Lyon (Deputy Attorney General, State of CA), Sheresa Absher (Detective, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department), Jeffrey Othic (Homeland Security Investigations), Matt Braunel (Partner, Thompson Coburn LLP) and Bryon Hennessey (Morgantown PD).
This is a one-day training that should not be missed by Law Enforcement in the Greater St. Louis area.
Tom Seaver was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with a 98.8% vote on the first ballot. Even 21 years afterward, this is the highest consensus of all time. I know you’re asking, “Why does Rob Holmes, a private eye, care about a pitcher from the 70s in regard to being a private eye?” He was voted by his critics to be more qualified than anyone that came before, or after him, to be in the Hall of Fame. Back in the 1970s, when he was at his peak performance, a reporter asked him when he decided to change pitches. His response was, “I throw the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.” This is the best business advice I have ever received. Still, after many years in business:
1. I develop an arsenal of weapons.
2. I decide which one is the best, then prioritize.
3. I strike the first bastard out.
4. I keep throwing the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.
5. I throw another great pitch until it doesn’t work no more either.
6. Repeat until the opponent is defeated.
In investigations, or even business, this is always the case. I’ve read books written by great businessmen like Trump, Welch, Collins and the like. But the only thing that resonates with me is the “Seaver Method” that says sticking with what works is always the best thing to do. No matter what the theory is… what works is all you know. Keep at it until it don’t work no more. Then move on to the next idea. And so forth.
Here endeth the lesson.
You must catch this doc tonight at 9pm on CBC-TV. It stars many of the heavy hitters in the anti-counterfeiting industry, including the legendary Lorne Lipkus.
They can brake your car or break your neck. Counterfeit car parts, including brake pads and air bags, are being installed into vehicles with potentially deadly consequences.
Counterfeit Culture is a one-hour documentary that explores the dangerous and sometimes deadly world of fake products. An industry that once dealt in imitation designer handbags and shoes has exploded into a global epidemic of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, foods, toys, electronic goods, car parts and microchips. Astonishingly, the traffic in counterfeit goods now accounts for approximately 10% of the world’s total trade – a staggering $700 billion. And it continues to grow unabated.
Shot on location in Canada, the USA, Asia, and Europe, Counterfeit Culture challenges consumers to take a deeper look at what appear to be harmless knock-offs at bargain prices. This thought-provoking film is a compelling journey through what is now a world-wide plague, a menace that some have called the crime of the 21st century.