T he production of counterfeit merchandise is a $600 billion per year industry that has grown 10,000 percent over the past two decades, according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. Fueled largely by consumer demand, it costs U.S. businesses up to $250 billion annually and has been responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 domestic jobs.
Counterfeiting is a particularly troublesome issue for sports leagues, which constantly have logos, colors and rights stolen and replicated on apparel. For more than 15 years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has partnered with OpSec Security to protect its brand and intellectual property around the world.
Impacting the entire retail chain
Counterfeiting impacts the entire retail spectrum, from manufacturers and distributors to stores and consumers. Local jurisdictions also lose out on taxes.
Ethan Orlinsky, senior vice president and general counsel for Major League Baseball Properties, says the league is most focused on apparel because it has the greatest financial consequence. From the counterfeiters’ perspective, barriers to entry are minimal and the payoff is high.
“As the brand owner, we take it upon ourselves not just to impact our own economic interests but all of those constituents,” Orlinsky says. “We concentrate our efforts on the areas where they are the most effective and our impact is the greatest.”
MLB first turned to OpSec Security in 1994 to develop a hologram for all of its official merchandise. Hologram security tags provide effective security at a reasonable cost because they offer a readily identifiable sign that a product is authentic — and because the tags themselves are difficult to reproduce.
OpSec uses holograms as a key tool in its brand protection operations. Its proprietary optical imaging equipment allows it to deliver cost-effective and secure product authentication to protect against counterfeiting and tampering. OpSec vice president of global licensing Bill Patterson says that as technology has advanced and more business operations have moved to the web, so has the need to stay ahead of the counterfeiter’s technology.
“The equipment we had 20 years ago you can now buy on the Internet and set up in your garage,” Patterson says. “Our goal is to stay at least five years ahead of where we know the counterfeiting technology is.”
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