I was in New York City over the weekend, waiting in a very long line for brunch, when I overheard a woman with a southern drawl ask, “Ya’ll from around here? You know the easiest way to get to Chinatown?” I couldn’t help but immediately think this woman is going for the counterfeits! Now this may not be a fair judgment to pass off, as she very well could have been going for the authentic dim sum, rather than the fake Louis Vuittons that are hawked on the sidewalks. But in any case, working in this industry drew me to immediately conclude that she was 1) clearly a tourist, by indication of her accent and need for directions, and 2) she, like many other thousands of NYC tourists each year, was journeying to Canal Street only to knowingly be lured into backrooms filled with counterfeits.
Just as the city of Los Angeles is impacted by piracy in the entertainment industry, New York, which houses the corporate headquarters of some of the world’s largest brands, is directly hurt by the illegal business of counterfeiting. And to add insult to injury, one of the most notorious counterfeit street vendor businesses operates on Big Apple home turf. This is known as none other than infamous Canal Street or the Counterfeit Triangle. New York City is said to suffer losses of up to $350 million a year in unreported tax revenue due to illegal counterfeit sales.
Though Michael Bloomberg has sent his undercover investigation team on a number of raids into the Counterfeit Triangle, counterfeiters just won’t close up shop. In fact, just days after last winter’s monumental sting, counterfeiters were back hawking their goods. Although this time, they were a little craftier in their sales approach. Sellers were seen on street corners with laminated pamphlets advertising the latest fakes in stock.
Whether they’re online or on the street corners, these ‘faux-trepreneurs’ are motivated to stay in business since the money is just too good to say no, and the lack of harsh punishment is unseen. Governments, legal counsels, investigators, brand owners and brand protectionists have certainly joined forces to help prevent the proliferation of this illegal distribution. But as seen with this NYC female tourist, (who very well could have been going to Chinatown for the dim sum, but to help my case we’ll say she was going for the fake goods) as long as there is a consumer demand, there will be a supply. We in the anti-counterfeit business are left with the challenge of breaking a vicious cycle.
There is no silver bullet solution, but as long as we stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters, we’ll still see a return on our invested time and efforts. Letting your trademark run rampant in counterfeit circles will only cause your brand to incur heavier costs than those who are proactively picking off the counterfeiters, even if it’s one by one. The business of counterfeiting will always exist, but communicating the message that your brand will not stand for this illegal infringement, will send the fraudsters looking to another trademark to pick on, or rather knockoff.