Regularly, the NBA has a target on its back. Basketball is a global sport. It is played across Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America and Asia. For those players with the skill to be at the pinnacle of the sport, the NBA is the dream. Pulling the best of the best into one city for a flagship event attracts celebrities and avid fans alike looking to be a part of the action.
As always, the counterfeiters are on the scene to take advantage. Now by choosing Los Angeles, a major Pacific port city, as the location of that flagship event, and suddenly your issues are compounded because the counterfeiters have a direct supply route.
But those counterfeiters are dealing with a well-oiled machine in the NBA. The team that runs intellectual property and enforcement at the NBA are some of the best of the best in their game too. And it’s fun to watch them in full force taking down the street vendors around the venue. I just hope the rest of the public notices too.
Buying counterfeit merchandise is more than getting a cheap t-shirt. It’s funding a criminal organization that you know nothing about. A criminal organization that could be laundering drug money, lining the pocket of nefarious individuals, or raising funds for terrorist activities… not to mention that the products that they’re making may actually be harmful to your health.
As a country, we’ve spent a lot of money on public service announcements telling us not to litter, that our brain on drugs is like an egg in a frying pan, and within the last decade, if you see something… say something. But what about the effects of counterfeiting? Sure, when the event comes to town, the news stations will give three to four minutes about it.
But is it a business issue or a public safety issue? I tend to side on the public safety issue. Good public policy leads to good business. And keeping the counterfeits off the street will actually employ more workers in legitimate companies. There’s so much rhetoric about creating jobs… we don’t talk about the things we can do to protect the ones that we’ve lost due to ignorance. Stopping unauthorized product can do just that. If more people realized that, perhaps it could garner a little more attention in the press… and the general public.
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Fortunately for MLB, there is a significant program involved. Through the use of overt and covert markers on the game-used merchandise, MLB can determine if the item is genuinely something that has passed through their hands. In fact, the overt holograms include a serial number that can be even verified through their own website. The integrity of the program is ensured through the use of strict guidelines and professional authenticators for each and every item.
Then there is the question of items signed from many decades ago. Verifying the signature of a Roberto Clemente baseball is a bit trickier when the authentication business didn’t truly exist at his passing in 1972. Fortunately for collectors, there are companies that provide such a service. Through the use of expert handwriting analysis, forensic techniques, and other records of the time, companies such as Total Sports Authenticators, will help determine the provenance and authenticity of a particular item.
But what about the everyday run-of-the-mill memorabilia provider? You should be asking several questions:
- Is there a marking (i.e. hologram) that has been placed on the ball that serves as a security device with a unique serial number? Don’t settle for a shiny piece of label that is there for marketing purposes to confuse the intent of authentication.
- What is the database for verifying that serial number? Does it provide the date it was signed? By the player that signed it? Ideally, does it mention the type of item that was signed?
- If the item is of a vintage caliber, what are the credentials of the company providing its authenticity?
- Do you care? Sometimes, people just want a good story to go along with their item if it’s going to sit on a shelf in their office.
Personally, I’m not a huge collector, but I do enjoy a good find every once in a while. I don’t know if I’ll part with anything that I have. Frankly, unless you’re a big Orioles or Ravens fan, you may not like most of my stuff anyway! But I do like to know exactly where and how the signature was obtained. About 75% of my collection was obtained personally. I keep tickets showing dates and locations of signings or I try and get a photograph of me, the player, and the item being signed as visual proof. If you’re a collector, that’s part of the fun of getting the item!
As for A-Rod, you better believe that whoever gets that ball will want to turn it over to MLB to verify the covert markings. The expectation of that particular baseball’s value, once verified, is about $100,000 at auction. Good luck, fans!
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How many times have we heard or seen the recording of Dr. King's speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial proclaiming "I Have a Dream"? How could it possibly be a violation of intellectual property to replay parts of that speech? I'm raising money for a good cause! Don't we all have a right as Americans to use it as we see fit?
Topics: Digital Media