Counterfeit goods cost California businesses millions each year

This July, over 6,000 people were nabbed in a worldwide sweep during an anti-counterfeit sting operation. Interpol - an international police agency working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world - seized nearly 25 million counterfeit items worth more than $125 million. Numerous manufacturing sites were also shut down during the two-month sweep and officials will spend the next months and years following up on leads discovered during the raids.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce, the total value of counterfeit goods produced on a worldwide scale may reach $1.5 trillion within the next two years. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that 40 percent of counterfeit goods seized in the U.S. enter through California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. However, the internet is the main source of sales.

Illegal operations use the internet to market and distribute counterfeit goods and legitimate companies often do not have the means with which to fight back. Battling counterfeiters can be expensive and time-consuming, driving up their expenses and, thus, their prices. In this high-tech world, businesses struggle to protect their intellectual property, and for good reason.

Sales of counterfeit goods not only drive up the cost of legitimate goods for consumers, they can be dangerous. A Long Beach, California man was recently sentenced to prison for selling counterfeit male enhancement drugs that were tainted with lead at 140 percent of the allowable level. Counterfeit machines and toys are often defective, presenting dangers to their users.

Taking steps to stop counterfeiting

Businesses and governments are taking measures to uncover and stop counterfeiters in order to stem the flow of counterfeit sales. Recent initiatives include the following:

  • Automated detection systems: Some companies utilize automated infringement detection systems to identify online uses of their trade names that do not fit their marketing patterns.

  • Supply chain tracking: More businesses are adopting data tracking systems to improve the accountability and security of supply chains for their goods.

  • Data analytics: The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection monitors shipments of imported goods and, using data analytics, helps stop counterfeit goods from entering the U.S.

  • Mobile apps: A number of companies are utilizing crowd sourcing to identify counterfeit goods. Consumers can report fake goods in exchange for discounts via mobile apps like "uFaker." Companies receive a notification of a reported fake and can investigate as they see fit.

  • Online detection: Ad network companies like Google and Microsoft are combating spam and fraudulent advertising websites by developing and adopting techniques that will identify ads for counterfeit goods.
A lawyer can help

If you or your business suffers losses due to counterfeit sales or stolen intellectual property, consult an attorney knowledgeable about internet law, business law and protection of intellectual property. An experienced civil litigation lawyer may be able to help.