It should go without saying that, in every situation where a crime is taking place, it is most desirable to catch the perpetrator. Doing anything else, including merely disrupting their operation, is simply a consolation. With this in mind, I find that best practices are not always laid out properly so that professionals going into this situation know how to meet the desired end. Even though I specialize in online investigations, I come from the old school and believe that those skills are sometimes a lost art in the new world of online investigations. We will always be investigating people, not their tools. If I hear another firm tell me they are “investigating a website” I’ll pull my hair out. Continue reading
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.
Since I last posted, I have been to three conferences in two countries, hosted two events and conducted five hours of public speaking. During this time, I’ve been in coffee shops and hotel rooms doing the marketing, bookkeeping, client meetings and other tasks required of a small businessman. I am by no means a small man, but an entrepreneur thus the small business reference. Here is a recap of my latest adventures:
On May 12th I was a featured speaker at the Trilateral Security Conference in Calgary, AB. I gave my talk entitled “IP Cybercrime: Knockoffs & The Web”. While attending I was able to try Alberta beef for the first time and, being from Texas I never thought I’d say this but, it was amazing. I want more. The city is beautiful and reminded me much of Fort Worth. Large working class neighborhoods, evidence of more than a century of architecture and a very quaint upscale downtown club district.
My eight-day Boston trip included the company of a woman many of you know as “Wifey” of Facebook fame. She and I flew in Tuesday and had dinner at Ristorante Limoncello with fellow Online Guy Nils Montan and his lovely wife Teresa. Being in Boston’s North End I went straight for the linguini with clams and was far from disappointed. The International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition kicked off on Wednesday May 19th at 9am with a half-day presentation of my IP Cybercrime Boot Camp. I was pleased with the turnout and thank the IACC for the opportunity to present. Kudos to IACC President Bob Barcheisi for putting on yet another great conference. The venue was the Hyatt Regency Boston on Ave de Lafayette which was great with the exception of below-par room services due to a strike which could not be avoided on our end. The program was rich with topics, the committee meetings were productive and I believe attendance was an all-time high.
Over the weekend, Wifey and I took time to sleep in a bit, have a couple romantic dinners and take the very entertaining Ghosts and Gravestones tour of Boston after dark on Sunday. Dinners at Bouchee Brasserie on Newbury and Kingfish Hall in Quincy Market were quite enjoyable.
By the beginning if the International Trademark Association Spring Meeting on Sunday my voice was completely shot. As most of you know, talking is my favorite activity so this was not going stop me. I vocally limped my way through the next four days while gorging on honey and lemon between meetings and events. The first event to mention is the well-publicized IP Tweetup hosted by “The Online Guys” myself & Nils Montan. Our RSVP list from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn totaled more than ninety and I suspect actual turnout was much higher. This is beyond what would be expected for a pre-dinner happy hour. Our sponsor Knowem brought three representatives to give a presentation and Q&A throughout. It was so successful that we have already announced there will be a followup event next year in San Francisco.
Like many INTA attendees, I fill my days with meetings so I do regret to say I have no report on the daily sessions themselves. Back to the nightlife. Tuesday night I attended the reception hosted by law firm Duane Morris at the classy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I have been to this firm’s events before and can say they know how to choose a nice venue to escape the madness of the legal world. Speaking of venues one cannot mention this conference without raving about the Finnegan party at the House of Blues. There were bands playing all night for what I estimate to have been over a thousand in attendance. I think I even saw a few people swinging on chandeliers. I was able to bump into dozens of friends and also made some new ones.
By the final day, I met many friends, made several new client relationships, closed a few business deals and became Mayor of my hotel on Foursquare. Back home for a few days awaiting my next mission.
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
Corporate policy enforcement is often paradoxical. The two faces of humanity clash in the office. One is to compete for first place while the other appears to try to help others. As someone who is commissioned to protect specific brands from being tarnished, I find myself in a position to tangentially help brands with whom I do not work. I choose to do so out of goodwill. I find that the practice of selflessness is something that brings me happiness.
The competition method is to make it so difficult for criminals to counterfeit your brand that they counterfeit others brands instead. This is not terrible, but also not constructive outside the shareholder meetings. In other words, the end result is more money. Nothing else. That may be enough for some, but others see there is a bigger picture.
I was at a policy roundtable the other day and, when I expressed this concept, another participant disagreed. His brilliant example was neighborhood watch. He told me that the purpose of neighborhood watch is to cause the burglars to go to your neighbor’s house instead of yours. I had to turn around to see if I was on candid camera. Really, dude? How much was your bill from law school? Was there an ethics class or two? Do they have a refund policy? Remind me not to move to his neighborhood. Neighborhood watch was set up to help neighbors protect each other. This actually is a great example of the ‘Whole World’ approach.
I believe brands need to work more with each other as a policy. Organizations like the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition are set up to assist brands in helping one another. This great organization, in fact, is celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year.
The question I pose is this: Is it morally wrong to exclaim the dangers of counterfeiting professing the Whole World message while practicing the Competition method?
I say it is. Helping your neighbor is its own reward.
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.
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.
Some of you may have been in attendance at one of my public appearances last year entitled “2008 Cyber-Review”. In this presentation, I covered tips, tricks, trends & tactics that I thought were important to impart to you folks. One of the trends about which I spoke was the virtual goods market. I stated that brands needed to protect themselves from the sales of counterfeit virtual goods because it was only a matter of time that they themselves will tap this market for profit.
In the July/August issue of Fast Company Michael Fitzgerald writes, in an article entitled ‘Boomtown‘, that the virtual goods market is “attracting major brands, celebrities, and venture capital. The money is real.” Real to the tune of $1.8 Billion.
The world’s largest sneaker manufacturer attended one of my talks and I see they have, too, reaped benefit from this market and have tapped into an aftermarket for this as well. Chicken or egg? You decide. Either way, hire someone to go online and start protecting your brands in virtual worlds.