The Facts of IP Crimes
Kris Buckner, Investigative Consultants
The facts about Intellectual Property Crimes (IP Crimes) are really simple. IP Crimes, including trademark counterfeiting and piracy are an ever growing problem that endanger the foundation of our world and local economies. Not to mention that these crimes provide an easy source of revenue for gang members, organized crime groups, and even terrorist organizations. All of us and our communities are the victims in these types of crimes.
There is nothing positive that comes from the sales of counterfeit or pirated merchandise. In fact, everything about these crimes is negative. The people involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of counterfeit trademarked merchandise are stealing. There is no difference than going into a store and taking merchandise without paying for it. The taking of someone’s intellectual property is theft, plain and simple.
The owners and creators of Intellectual Property are creative and innovative people who have worked hard to develop and create a product to share with the world. These creative minds spend years and thousands of their hard earned dollars to create and make their dreams come true. Why should a counterfeiter be allowed to come along and steal what someone else worked so hard on to create? Trademark counterfeiting is theft!
Too many people look at counterfeiting as a victimless crime and have the mentality that it is ok because “no one is getting hurt.” People are getting hurt and people are dying from counterfeit goods every year. There are numerous cases involving counterfeit goods that have resulted in hundreds of deaths. During the investigations that Investigative Consultants has conducted over the past 15 years, we have seen some very serious cases.
Counterfeiters have been known to use child labor in their production of the counterfeit goods. There have been cases where the workers making the counterfeit goods have been locked inside of factories. If there were a fire, the workers would have no way of escaping. The disregard that counterfeiters and pirates have for human life is amazing. The only thing the counterfeiters care about is the money and nothing else.
Our economy suffers in many ways. We are losing billions of dollars a year in lost tax revenue. Most counterfeiters are not paying their fair share of taxes, if any at all. There have been numerous cases where counterfeiters claim they make $ 12,000 a year, however have millions of dollars a year going through their bank accounts. The math never adds up.
During an investigation of a “street vendor” in Los Angeles, who sold pirated music, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the vendor’s home. Law enforcement located over $ 40,000 in cash and $ 700,000 in bank accounts, along with several thousand pirated music CDs. Law enforcement also learned that the subject owned the home, valued at $ 330,000 outright. The problem is the subject was also collecting public assistance and did not pay taxes.
There have been numerous cases, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash have been recovered from the subjects of a counterfeiting investigation, who claim that they were “barely surviving” or they were just trying to “feed their kids.” Do not believe the tall tales that counterfeiters tell of poverty and “just getting by.” The counterfeiters are not legitimately contributing to our economy or to our communities.
In many cases, counterfeiters and pirates are paying their employees “under the table” and do not provide benefits or pay into Social Security or Workers Compensation. Counterfeiters will argue that they are creating jobs. However, aren’t all employees entitled to the protections that the law provides? When these workers are working for counterfeiters, they are often subjected to poor and dangerous working conditions. Most of these criminal organizations care nothing for the well being of the people working for them and are only concerned with their employees making them money.
How can legitimate small business owners compete with the businesses in their area selling counterfeit goods?