Consistency in Masking IP Addresses

The two most important things when conducting undercover contact is obtaining sensitive data and, yes, not blowing your cover.  If a subject were to examine the source code (header) of an email I sent them, it may reveal my IP address.  If I were to access a subject’s website, my IP address will be revealed.  Without a subpoena, anyone can use your IP address to determine the name of your Internet Service Provider and the general region of the terminal that connected to the web during your contact.  This is why it is important to use a service that specializes in masking IP addresses.  I use a pay service that is completely legal, inexpensive, fast and convenient. The service I use allows me to choose IP addresses from all over the world at the drop of a dime.
Consistency in IP Address Masking

If the subject is offering fashion goods, I am sure not to use an IP address from NY, CA, UK, France or Italy because the legal departments for many of these brands are located in these regions. If I am investigating a software counterfeiter I will steer clear from IP address located in CA, WA or MA.  A paranoid counterfeiter will block customers from those regions, or at least notice that they are being monitored. So My first advice is to choose an IP address that is not in a state/country your client’s industry or headquarters is based.  Then you must discipline yourself to never check these emails from your phone or an unfamiliar computer terminal.  No matter how curious you are, the email can wait until you are at your PC with the ability to mask the same, consistent IP address region you have previously used.  Just as we are watching for bad guys to make mistakes, they are waiting for us to do the same.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

How the Megaupload Case Has Hurt Brand Protection

How the Megaupload Case has Hurt the Brand Protection IndustryThe reason the case against Megaupload founder Kim DotCom has hurt brand protection is because it has nothing to do with trademark enforcement and no one knows it.  With all of the news this case is getting, the public-at-large does not know the difference between counterfeiting and piracy.  There are many different kinds of Intellectual Property but only trademark was set up to protect the consumers before the content owner.  The purpose of a trademark is to identify the origin of a good or service.  The way this works is that, if you see my name or logo on my product, you can trust that it was made by me.  Trademarks are set up as a seal of trust and quality between a manufacturer and a consumer.  People who slap your favorite company’s logo on an inferior product deserve to be made to stop.  By placing a company’s logo on a commercial work without permission helps dilute the brand.  Even if your use is apparently harmless, they must enforce all unauthorized uses in order to be allowed to enforce the baddies.  It’s the basic rule that your school teacher had when you were a child, “If I make an exception for you, I’d have to do it for all the other kids.”  Copyright protection is quite different.  It protects the creator or the owner.  While that is still a noble cause, the difference needs to be made clearer to the public.  The Copyright Act of 1790 granted an author up to 28 years of exclusive rights to his work as long as he was alive.  In 1948 the United Nations passed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states ‘Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.’  I am citing this to make it clear that I vehemently support the protection of content.  I do not, however, support the combining of these interests.  Our founding fathers were careful to place copyright in the hands of the legislature (Library of Congress) and trademarks in the hands of the Executive Branch (US Patent and Trademark Office).  This was no mistake.

In 1946 the United States passed the Lanham Act which prohibited trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising.  In 1984 the Trademark Counterfeiting Act established specific criminal penalties for the commercial use of a counterfeit trademark.  Later, in 1999, the AntiCybersquatting Act was passed to prohibit the unauthorized commercial use of a trademark in a domain name.  President George W. Bush made trademarks a priority when he appointed the first-ever Intellectual Property Czar, which was an undersecretary position within the Commerce Department.  Of course trademark protection should be important.  Our brands are exported all over the world and we rely on the reputation of those brands for more than a third of our economy.  When President Obama was elected, he promoted the IPEC (Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator) position from undersecretary to full cabinet status.  Somewhere between then and now this person with executive power has been dubbed the Copyright Czar.  If the Executive Branch is granted to be in charge of trademarks and patents, why are they in the copyright business?  Perhaps American corporations and our own government have been blurring the distinction between the two to make sloppy cases less noticeable.  Or perhaps this is happening so that the specificity of Intellectual Property Rights becomes so unrecognizable that anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything.  Or perhaps this is all just a completely innocent mix-up.  Once we start to see copyright enforcement activity at the USPTO, we will know that our constitution is being ignored.  Protection of all property needs to be respected, but the trademark community needs to stand alone in this fight if we want to bring trust back to the consumer.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

SOPA: Taming the Wild West

Set in the year 1865, the television show Hell on Wheels centers on the individuals working on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.  Colm Meaney plays Thomas “Doc” Durant, a greedy entrepreneur and the driving force behind this railroad, where he hopes to take advantage of the changing times and make a fortune. Although his mad quest is noble in many ways he goes, for the most part, unwatched.  He successfully kept the US government at bay by occasionally returning to lobby Washington while his operation ran as he saw fit.

Here we are in the 21st Century, where new railroads have been constructed and new entrepreneurs are taking subsidies and lobbying the US government on how they think their throughways should be governed.  The Internet is not just a bunch of wires and tubes, but the sidewalks, highways and railroads of our nation.  Profiteers want to bamboozle you into thinking that this is not the wild west.  It is.

I was recently on Capitol Hill presenting along side many of America’s labor unions in support of the pro-jobs bill known as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  We were regular working joes presenting to congress and outside were teams of Google suits with wolfish grins.  I can tell you first-hand that those leading the charge against SOPA are the richest people in the history of mankind.  They want to make sure they can run their operations without regulation as long as they can.  The non-billionaires that oppose this bill are the gunslingers who also profit from this lawlessness.

Every nation has border security.  If a swindler tries to make his way across the American border he will likely meet with an enforcement agent and, if found a threat to American consumers, will likely be turned around and not make it across the border.  If a swindler makes it across the border, and is caught, he is deported.  SOPA is nothing more than a border protection act.

Google and Facebook are not their own nations and they do not deserve their own laws.  They are companies incorporated in the United States and want to do business here.  They also stand to benefit from the sale of illegal goods to American consumers.  Because they believe older generations’ learning curves are slower, they are making outrageous statements like we are going to “break” or “censor” the Internet.  Heed my warning — Do what is best for the consumer, not the billionaires and the gunslingers.

A great American Eleanor Roosevelt chaired a committee to draft The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 1948 it was adopted by the United Nations.  Article 27 Section (2) of this declaration states, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”  In 2011 those rights are under attack.  Under attack by faceless perpetrators who are hiding behind these Rogue websites.   Forty-seven per cent of America’s gross national product now comes from Intellectual Property.  That means our nation’s most precious resource is its IP.  Rogue sites are not only the vessel of choice of the modern criminal, I have seen first-hand terrorist and other criminal organizations selling counterfeits online to fund their activities overseas.  I will tell you this —  They don’t care about the economic impact, labor standards or consumer safety.

The Internet is a real place with real people, and real businesses need real laws.  Don’t let these billionaires swindle you into thinking otherwise.  Wyatt Earp needs to clean up.  Let’s do this!

So Many Cases!

I don’t know about you, but managing my caseload on a spreadsheet would be a nightmare.  Another nightmare would be if you were not able to share case updates with colleagues in an easy fashion.  We’ve all been there but not anymore!  I have designed the ultimate case management database for Internet investigations.  I named it Case Ninja™ and partnered with a leading database company TrackVia so I could bring this amazing product to you.  This Friday I am co-presenting a free webinar to demonstrate how Case Ninja™ has helped my company track tens of thousands of cases that span over a decade  with a coupla clicks of a mouse.  Don’t miss it.  Oh.  And we’re giving away a free iPad to one lucky viewer!

Click HERE or the ninja to the right and sign up today!

Anatomy of an Idiot or: The Case of the Counterfeit Judge

Doh!

Image via Wikipedia

As I regularly search for shows on my TiVo using keywords that relate to my interests and work, I ran across a rerun of ‘Swift Justice with Nancy Grace‘ that originally aired on 2/28/11 entitled “An online rip-off; pit bull puppies”.  This was caught in my filter because the word ‘knockoff’ was in the show’s description.  In this episode, the first case was of a woman who had purchased a pair of Coach boots from a website buymerchant.com.  Upon receipt of the boots, the Plaintiff stated that she believed they were counterfeit and was entitled to a refund of $174 USD.  Whether the goods in this case were actually counterfeit is actually not even relevant to what I’m about to share.  What followed was some of the most irresponsible judiciary-slash-journalistic behavior I have ever seen.

Grace first examines the boots saying, “If these are fake, I’ll buy ‘em!  I’m all about fakes!”  She then hollers backstage, “Hey, bring me out my my ‘Frauda’!”  She giggled and looked back at the camera explaining, “My fake Prada.  I love it.”  As she brings the conversation back to the case on hand, she turns to the Plaintiff and uttered in a snarky drawl, “So… you don’t like fakes?”

After picking up my jaw from the atop my Birkenstock I witness Grace call in her ‘expert’  to authenticate the boots.  This guy’s qualifications were that he was a former employee at a Coach store.  Wait, it gets better.  As he makes his unconvincing case, Grace barks again and looks offstage, “Hey, bring me back my fake!”  Then she asks her expert to authenticate her ‘Frauda’.  He explains to her that it is counterfeit and that a real handbag of this type is of higher quality and would retail for about $1,500 USD.  Then Grace starts howling like a preacher with a bellyache with, “Fifteen… hundred… dollars?!?!?!  Do you know how long I’ve had this thing?  Five years.  That’s a good quality bag!”  Just as I did, you are probably asking if this idiot actually admitted to purchasing illegal goods, defend it and then promote the behavior from her bench on national television.  Yes.  She did.  You can witness an excerpt of the event for yourself by clicking this link here: http://www.swiftjustice.com/case_files/2011-02-28

While much of the civilized world is trying to discourage this type of contraband activity, we have a nitwit like this adjudicating cases with her own television show, and doling out legal advice on CNN.  While Nancy Grace is hosting ‘Swift Justice’, what she really needs is a swift kick in the rear end.

Justice is Served

In my exclusive story from August entitled “Holmes and the case of the naughty web host” I chronicled the first ever successful suit against an ISP for contributory infringement.  I was honored to be involved and proud of the work my team put in to assist Louis Vuitton Malletier and their attorneys Andy Coombs and Annie Wang of J. Andrew Coombs a P.C.

The Bureau of National Affairs wrote a good article about last week’s Judgment and Permanent Injunction against Akanoc et al.  Give the court document a read.

Louis Vuitton v. Akanoc et al Judgment and Permanent Injunction

Origin of word “Counterfeit”

The English word “counterfeit” shows up in the language around 1250-1300, the time of so-called Middle English.  The word then was “countrefeten.”  This word, in turn, came from Middle French, where the word was “contrefait” or “contrefaire,” which meant to imitate an original article in a drawing or painting.

2009 14th Annual Kestenberg Siegal Lipkus LLP Anti-counterfeiting Fraud Conference

Hi Folks.  Guest blogger Attorney David Lipkus reports on last week’s KSL/CACN conference.

As things wind down here at the conference, there have been numerous lessons learned from a number of presenters.  Some highlights include:

  1. Internet investigation – lots of counterfeiters reveal personal information on social networking sites, websites, on shipping documentation and in other areas.
  2. Grey market goods – Counterfeiters often believe they are dealing in grey market goods, but are often dealing in counterfeit – always authenticate evidence/sample purchases with intellectual property rights holders before accepting their position.
  3. Cross border counterfeiting – It’s not just CHINA…many cases involve links between American, Canadian and Mexican counterfeiters.  The more information being shared between borders– the greater the likelihood the counterfeiter will be caught.
  4. Pharmaceutical counterfeiting issues – Counterfeiters do not discriminate when choosing which products to counterfeit – if there is demand for H1N1 vaccines – they will be counterfeited.  A long time ago, Lorne Lipkus once said “If the deal is too good to be true, it’s usually is”.
  5. The ROM – The Royal Ontario Museum has an upcoming exhibit – Fakes and Forgeries: Yesterday and Today.  This is a great exhibit for public awareness on counterfeiting and will provide a fun learning experience to guess which objects are real and which are fakes.  The exhibit opens January 9, 2010 and will be here until April 4, 2010. The next time you visit Toronto – this is a must see!!!

If you’re reading this website – then you are probably aware that all products can be counterfeited.  One of the best ways to combat this problem is to work together.  If I can be of assistance please do not hesitate to contact me at dlipkus@ksllaw.com.

Google Reader: Latest trend in Fakery

googlereaderspam_

Even only a year ago, spam primarily consisted only of unwanted email in your inbox.  But now as blogs become more popular, services such as Google Reader make it easy for people to aggregate those blog feeds (commonly RSS and Atom) into your inboxes.

Along with feeds/blogs to which you specifically subscribe, one can also subscribe to keywords and topics known as ‘tags’.  Replica watch spammers constantly have to innovate ways to make it to your computer without getting caught in your spam filters.  This is also a method some call ‘indirection’ which takes a web surfer to a page that acts as a placeholder prior to linking them to the actual website selling the goods.  This is a method to evade security features built into most popular browsers.  The image on the right is an example of what such an ad may look like.

Folks, if there is money in selling replicas, bad guys are going to figure out a way to sell them.  They key is staying one step ahead.  The only way to do that is to hire a good team.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

EXCLUSIVE: Holmes and the case of the naughty web host

On Friday August 28th, 2009 a jury in the Northern District of California found ISP/web hosts Akanoc Solutions, Inc., Managed Solutions Group, Inc. and Steven Chen liable for contributory trademark counterfeiting and awarded Plaintiff Louis Vuitton Malletier $32 Million.

This story is not only the first you will likely read on this case, but its author was the primary investigator and a witness for the Plaintiff.

Welcome to Akanoc SolutionsI first observed this group a few years ago doing business as Managed Solutions Group (MSG) when they were popping up as a US-based web host for China-based sellers of counterfeit goods.

A couple of my luxury brand clients asked me to look into this entity and I did.  I asked a colleague who is a higher-up at a major anti-spamming organization if he had ever heard of them.  His immediate response was, “Yeah.  They are spammers.”  He later clarified stating that they had positioned themselves as bulletproof hosts for spammers for some time.  He told me they had straightened their act in that industry after the CAN-SPAM Act was passed and made it a criminal act to facilitate such activity.

Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Akanoc Solutions, Inc. et al was a bold case and a years-long battle fueled by the passion of Vuitton’s in-house legal wizard Nikolay Livadkin and outside counsel Andy Coombs and Annie Wang of J. Andrew Coombs a P.C. A brilliant case was laid out that illustrated Akanoc, MSG & Chen’s non-compliance despite diligent efforts by Vuitton.

Laughably, Akanoc admitted that they complied with the requests of big companies like eBay and Microsoft but not with smaller companies such as my client.  I don’t know which part of that statement is more moronic: The Defendant sneezing at a 100 year-old company that made $24 Billion last year (triple eBay but less than Microsoft); or that they looked a federal judge in the eye and sneezed at the rights of all companies they did not perceive to be ‘big’.

The verdict is below and many interesting stories will arise.  There are many things to learn from this.  A few of which are:

  • Web hosts must not ignore the violation of anyone’s rights on their watch.
  • Don’t mess with Louis Vuitton.
  • Evidence produced by my office is far better than our competition and can help you win cases like this one.

For more information please contact me by phone at (972) 422-2100 or by email at rob@ipcybercrime.com.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

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