World Anti-Counterfeiting Day took place on June 8 and was a good time to focus on the pervasive dangers of counterfeiting. Counterfeiting has always caused grave concern to brand owners, as counterfeit goods can reduce sales of legitimate goods, force brand owners to spend time and money combatting the importation and sale of illegal goods, and erode the goodwill associated with a brand. Equally important, counterfeiting harms consumers, as counterfeits can pose serious health and safety risks.
Combatting counterfeiting takes a collective effort by a variety of stakeholders, from brand owners to online marketplaces, e-commerce providers, social media, and governmental institutions, to name a few. As attorneys, such stakeholders rely on us to provide guidance in implementing effective brand protection programs and anti-counterfeiting strategies. However, in focusing on our client's needs and the opportunities that clients have to combat counterfeiting, we may sometimes lose sight that we, as consumers, can play just as vital a role in the fight.
The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce previously recommended certain actions for consumers. As we recognize World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, let us take off our attorney hats for just a moment, review these actions, and reflect on what we can do personally to assist in the fight against counterfeiting.
Scrutinize labels, packaging, and contents
Keep an eye out for missing or expired use-by dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, misspellings, misplacement or alterations of brand logos, or unusual packaging.
Seek authorized retailers
Visit a brand owner’s website for a list of authorized retailers and only purchase from a trusted source. If you are unsure whether a retailer has acquired its products from a legitimate distributor, ask the retailer to confirm the source of the goods. When shopping on a site that hosts third-party sellers, review the seller’s information, which you can do by clicking such links as ‘seller information’ or ‘sold and shipped by.’ A seller’s information may also reveal the other items that it offers, where its business is located, and feedback on its products.
Watch for missing sales tax charges
If a purchase price does not show the required sales tax, ask the seller about the purchase price and the source of the products. Counterfeit traders commonly do not report their sales or pay applicable taxes.
Insist on secure transactions
When purchasing online, ensure that the website in the address bar begins with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure), and check that a padlock icon is displayed in the web browser, which means that the site is secured with a digital certificate. When purchasing in person, make sure your full credit card information does not appear on any receipts.
Seek quality assurance
If you are purchasing a used product, ask the seller to provide information about its quality assurance process. Reputable resellers generally have comprehensive inspection and authentication processes for their goods.
Report spam and faulty products
You can assist in the fight against fakes by notifying the brand owners of suspicious products and advertising. Further, report unsafe products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov).
Be vigilant when buying abroad
Counterfeit and pirated products are more prevalent in certain markets outside the United States. Review the U.S. Department of State website, which publishes travel advisories alerting travelers of potential counterfeits (http://travel.state.gov).
Teach children about counterfeits
As the next generation of consumers, educating our youth is crucial in the fight against fakes. Educate children about the physical harm that certain counterfeits can cause, as well as the economic harm experienced by brand owners. Provide guidance on how to shop with safe and legal retailers, both in person and online.
Warn friends and family about illegitimate products and sources
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread information about counterfeit products and those who sell them.
Trust your instincts
If something is too good to be true, it is likely a counterfeit. Find a product’s current retail price by reviewing authorized retailers. If you are unsure about a potential purchase and have concerns about its legitimacy, use your common sense and walk away.
Source: TMIN News 20: Counterfeit - YouTube
This article originally appeared in World Trademark Review Weekly on June 9, 2022 and is reprinted with permission.