Counterfeiters never take a day off, so we at OpSec don't have the luxury of relaxing either.
In the interest of keeping you up to date on the world of counterfeit goods, we've put together a news roundup for the enforcement actions, new laws and citizen concerns related to the practice so far this January. Remember to check back regularly or sign up for our email updates to stay up to date on the latest anti-counterfeit news.
NYPD bags seven counterfeit baggers
Our first story involves an anti-counterfeit enforcement against one of the most well known flavors of the practice anywhere in the world: fake designer goods on the streets of the Big Apple.
"It's almost as though they think they're not committing a crime because no one is getting hurt."
Fifty officials from the new York City Police Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security swept through a Queens storage facility the afternoon of Jan. 6, seizing an estimated $2.2 million worth of counterfeit goods, according to Women's Wear Daily. This brief, 30-minute operation was the climax of the seven-month long "Operation Treasure Hunt," and resulted in the arrest of seven at Treasure Island Storage.
Inside the facility, officials found neat displays of knockoff handbags imitating logos from brands like Michael Kors, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, the news source reported. Boxes of fake Ugg boots, North Face Jackets, Nike sneakers, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and more greeted officers after a thorough inspection.
Many of the dealers were reportedly selling directly to customers out of the storage room, but others were also selling to distributors. At least one of the illicit vendors had set up what police described to Women's Wear Daily as a "filler room" in another storage unit to facilitate this distribution operation.
"It's almost like a spider web, you don't know where it ends," NYPD Capt. Brian Sayre told the news source. "The way to get to it is to try to get the midlevel dealers and see who sells to them. That way we can work our way up to the tops of these organizations. It's not just bags and things that people wear. They're doing cosmetics, makeup so there is a concern about how these things are made."
Sayre works in the Organized Crime Investigation division of the NYPD and supervises a number of teams, including the city's trademark infringement unit. "It's almost as though they think they're not committing a crime because no one is getting hurt," he noted.
Counterfeit Drug Enforcement Act of 2014 referred to committee
A bill that would have significantly expanded anti-counterfeit enforcement activities relating prescription drugs has again been referred to committee, meaning that it was not enacted by Congress. Because of the potentially significant cost to drug manufacturers caused by this type of counterfeiting, not to mention the extreme risk to public health, this should be of real concern to industry members.
The proposed legislation, The Counterfeit Drug Enforcement Act of 2014, was introduced in mid-December by Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York. The bill is very similar to identically named legislation introduced by Israel several times over the past twelve years.
If enacted, the bill would have increased the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of knowingly causing a drug to be adulterated or misbranded to life in prison. The current penalty is a maximum of three years for intending to defraud or mislead or up to 10 years for distributing drugs, according to RAPS. Also included in the bill were provisions mandating that a manufacturer made aware that its drugs may have been misbranded or adulterated communicate this information to the FDA within 48 hours.
The FDA would also be imbued with new powers and funding in anti-counterfeit drug operations, the news source explained. The regulator would be given the authority to issue subpoenas related to drug counterfeiting operations, to order companies to recall a drug in certain circumstances and would receive an additional $60 million over the next four years for investigating counterfeit medications.
Unfortunately, GovTrac reported late last month that the bill was not enacted but instead died in committee.
U.A.E. residents fear counterfeit refrigerants
In our final story, recent research has revealed that a massive number of United Arab Emirates citizens are fearful for the dangers of counterfeit refrigerants, following a number of high profile accidents involving these chemicals.
The survey found that 57 percent of those surveyed believe counterfeit refrigerants are being sold in their country under fraudulent, brand name labels. Further, 81 percent responded that they would prefer brand name refrigerants for their home, office, car or refrigerator because of the reduced risk posed.
"We continue to introduce technology solutions to help combat this problem."
In 2011, three refrigerated containers using counterfeit refrigerants exploded, causing three deaths, according to the news source. The next year, the fake chemicals caused an air conditioning unit to explode. There have been reports of similar incidents in Greece, Germany and Australia.
Counterfeit threats in the region have grown so dangerous that local governments are now working with technology companies and other industries to protect citizens from dangerous products. However, this trend isn't limited to the UAE - dangerous counterfeit chemicals have been found all over the world, resulting in an even higher need for strong technology solutions to combat the problem.
The dangers of counterfeit refrigerants to end users, as well as the lost revenue for legitimate producers and vendors of the chemicals, make enforcement of counterfeiting laws essential.
By working with OpSec, companies that do business around the world are able to accomplish better product authentication, traceability and brand protection. These strategic elements work together to help protect revenues from counterfeiters and ensure users of a product feel safe and comfortable with a brand.