As I do the last few days of every April I was preparing for the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition Spring Meeting. Per my normal routine, I downloaded the agenda and devised a conference plan. I noted that this year, unlike last, the conference had a host: Hitha Prabhakar, author of the new best seller Black Market Billions: How Organized Retail Crime Funds Global Terrorists. In preparation of the possibility of carrying on a conversation with her, I decided to extend her the courtesy of purchasing the book on my favorite book site, audible.com. Don’t laugh. Come on. You didn’t expect a narcissistic guy this hopped up on Starbucks to be able to sit down and actually read a book in three days, did you? Besides, I love listening to non-fiction books.
Black Market Billions began with the author receiving an instant message from a friend offering her handbags for sale at a very attractive price. Knowing that she is a full-time fashion reporter, the friend explained that the items he was selling ‘fell off the truck’. What followed was a rabbit hole I was not expecting. Most books that involve the world of counterfeit goods focus on the counterfeit goods industry (makes sense, doesn’t it?), but not this one. In order to set the table properly to explain the role that counterfeit goods play in our society, Prabhakar first takes us deep into the varied world of shoplifting, human trafficking and Organized Retail Crime.
Most of my readers know I grew up in the anti-counterfeiting industry so one may assume I was schooled in all of the ways counterfeit goods are tied to the dark parts of the world’s economy. One would be wrong. I knew all about cargo theft, human trafficking, parallel imports and (of course) product counterfeiting and cybercrime. Although I knew that retail boosting existed, I didn’t know how organized it was and that it is directly tied to the same black market. I know we can watch an episode of reality television to learn something new, but Black Market Billions added a new view to even this easily jaded joker. Early on, she moves right to the ties between counterfeit goods and radical terrorists. Some of these stories were cases I had worked on, so it hit home as closely as it was well-written.
Moving through the chapters, I first was trying to figure out where she was going because the structure was not organized like most books, where there would be claim, evidence, conclusion, rinse, repeat. She told stories of individuals through their eyes and provided case studies with insight into their effect on these individuals. As the book unfolded I felt myself engrossed in a story that I thought I knew but saw it in a different light. Perhaps this insight was partially due to the fact that it was written by a woman. The stories felt personal and the street crime was real as it was woven into the larger picture of Big Fashion.
I recommend this book, not only for those interested in anti-counterfeiting, but anyone who reads true crime or even thrillers. Keep an eye on this author as well. To top it all off, I did end up chatting with her at a party, so my reading it in time was worth it!
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
IPCybercrime released a white paper entitled Five Easy Steps to Success in Online Brand Protection ™ along with the below accompanying infographic. When our CEO Rob Holmes began outlining his upcoming book The Brand Protection Bible (due in 2013) he realized that everything a brand owner needs to know to get started with a successful online program could be summed up in five words, with brief instructions, that fit into one simple page. This is to be the definitive approach to protecting any brand online.
This was created as a free reference for Brand Protection professionals. If you find any of this information helpful, please share the link, download the white paper and the infographic, use them, and circulate freely to anyone you think might find it useful. We encourage you to post this to your Intellectual Property website or blog and include it in your association newsletter. If you need a different size for your website, blog, or newsletter, need an accompanying article or interview, have different printing requirements, or have any other requests regarding this piece, send an email to email@example.com.
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.
Folks. I have great news for the anti-counterfeiting industry. I have recently agreed to co-produce and host a series for a major television network about counterfeiting. This show will be like nothing you have EVER seen before. It will be the first of its kind, allowing the public to have access to the raids, brand owners, cops, lawyers and investigators that make it their job to fight the fastest-growing crime wave. We will be travelling city to city to be on location interviewing you right in the middle of all the action and in your offices.
The specials you have seen previously are nothing compared to what we are going to bring you. Our goal is to make this show a network hit for many seasons. Imagine that for our little niche! Guys, you and I are charged with defending property that has become 47% of our economy. It’s time to go mainstream!
Not only will we be creating a series that will be entertaining and informative, but we will be bringing the faces of our industry to the public. That means you. We want to show the world that we are all people trying to do a job and keep order on this planet so that our employers can continue to create the products they love so much. If you would like to be featured on this show and/or provide content, please email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.