In early November, US Border Protection and Homeland Security officers seized 13,000 counterfeit designer products from California ports. If the goods were genuine, they would have fetched a retail price of $30M.

Where did the tankers originate from? You guessed it, China. The shipments included counterfeit handbags, backpacks, and apparel with favorite labels such as Gucci, Chanel, Fendi, YSL and Louis Vuitton. This is pretty much business as usual for US authorities charged with targeting illegal trade activity. 

Unscrupulous counterfeiters exploit e-commerce operations by selling imitation and hazardous goods through online platforms, particularly during the holiday season when shoppers are looking for deals. Cyber counterfeiting is a complex industry involving almost every part of the supply chain. Counterfeiting criminals have devised all sorts of ways to skirt the law. Counterfeit products are typically sold on very genuine-looking-but-bogus websites that appear to be legitimate retailers. So not only is the product fake, but the seller is also phony, too. Despite some awareness on the part of consumers, today’s shoppers, eager for deals and convenience are quick to enter their credit or debit cards into these sites without a second thought, which can lead to identity theft and other fraudulent activity. 

Buyers beware while holiday shopping online.

Another significant danger is that the fakes are usually poor quality or don’t work at all and can pose a serious safety risk in the case of camping equipment, electronics, and Covid-19 remedies. The chances are extremely high that the deeply discounted brand-name Christmas gift you ordered online is an imitation and not worth even the small price you paid. And given that by the end of 2021 the seizure of the shipments is expected to exceed that of $1.3B worth counterfeit goods in 2020, your North Face jacket may never arrive.

Merchants must be vigilant.

On the retail and manufacturing side, the theft of intellectual property in the form of cyber counterfeiting not only causes significant revenue loss but can profoundly erode a brand. Retailers and manufacturers who hold trademarks, patents and copyright in the US have recourse through the criminal and civil courts. Seeking relief though government agencies may take months or years and a resolution could come too late to save a brand or an entire business.

Short-Term Remedies

Our firm has developed a practice dedicated to protecting merchants and their products. At Stanley Ference, we facilitate the timely resolution of trade compliance issues. The firm’s skilled IP lawyers help retailers stop counterfeiters in their tracks by taking down counterfeit websites or online “shops” set up through Amazon, Alibaba and others.

Long-Term Strategy

Ference & Associates provide companies across the world with strategic counseling to help ensure brands and other intellectual property is protected online. Our eFence International™ program has serviced entrepreneurs around the globe by enforcing intellectual property rights and stopping online counterfeiters. Learn more here