Global Commerce Insider occasionally seeks input from leaders on vital issues that affect our businesses and economy in a global context.
Canadian exporters that source components for the products they export need to be careful they do not unwittingly use fake parts, says intellectual property lawyer Lorne Lipkus. Another potential land mine is having the products made in such a way that they are illegal in that they incorporate another person's trademarks or copyrights, he adds.
Mr. Lipkus (below) is a lawyer in private practice who concentrates on all areas of protecting trademarks and copyrights from being illegally copied or reproduced. His area of expertise in intellectual property law includes copyrights, industrial designs, patents and trademarks. As a partner in the Toronto law firm Kestenberg Siegal Lipkus LLP, he has assisted law enforcement in obtaining and executing criminal search warrants and dealing with all aspects of border enforcement. Mr. Lipkus is also actively involved in computer, domain name and Internet issues relating to anti-piracy and counterfeiting enforcement.
Here he shares his top five tips with Canadian exporters on how to avoid falling for fakes.
1. Beware of products offered for sale at a price too good to be true
While not always the case, often counterfeits sell at a lower price than seemingly identical authentic product. You will need to conduct some extra research to determine what the normal selling price range would be for the product or products in question. This could include doing some comparison shopping and online research to try and understand why the offer price is so low. It is often helpful to contact the original manufacturer to inquire about both the price and identity of the seller. Open source searching – using programs and information available to the public on the Internet – provides an inexpensive, although sometimes time-consuming, method of looking at the online "footprint" of counterfeiters.
2. Take steps to authenticate products from outside the usual supply chain
This is especially important when products are from an unknown source. Contact the original manufacturer to determine whether the source is one that they have authorized or, alternatively, whether it is a source that has been implicated in the sale of counterfeits in the past.
3. Carefully review all documentation recording the transaction
Be mindful that documentation detailing the supply chain is easily counterfeited, often more easily than the products themselves. Make sure descriptions are specific and accurate, especially product coding, descriptions, quantities and parties along the supply chain. Counterfeiters will often use an original purchase order, or other document from the original manufacturer, and doctor it to make it look authentic. The information contained on such documents can often be verified by contacting the original manufacturer.
4. Verify identities
Since counterfeiters will often deal products through fictitious entities, make sure the entity from whom you bought the product is a real business. Use open source Internet searches and government database checks to review their prior marketplace history, as well as contact information and prior dealings or references. Satisfy yourself that you have recourse against them, or, at least can find them again, should a problem arise down the road. A counterfeiter will sometimes be dealing in different marketplaces at once, including various online platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, AliBaba, Kijiji, Craigslist and so on. It is often helpful to check out their prior sales or auction history, reviews and complaints on such platforms.
5. Pay attention to packaging
Check the wording on the packaging to verify that all the information that is supposed to be on authentic products' packaging is present. Consider some or more of the following questions: Does the artwork appear to be copied or scanned? Are the words used properly? Are they spelled correctly and are they grammatically correct and properly spaced? Does the product use a copyright notice or a trademark notice? Does the product provide contact information such as a website? If any of this is amiss, consider it a sign that you might be facing counterfeit goods.