Fashion Law

Project Copycat: The Fed-led Crackdown on Counterfeits

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security filed documents in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City in May to seize seven Internet sites through which counterfeit professional team jerseys of different leagues were sold.

On Thursday, federal authorities said the Salt Lake investigation is part of Project Copycat, a national ICE-led crackdown on counterfeits, targeting websites selling a wide array of counterfeit goods.

NFL fakes from Fed-led crackdown on counterfeits

Project copycat targeted criminals making money by confusing consumers into believing they were buying authentic name brand products when instead they were buying counterfeits from illegal sites.

The operation shut down 70 websites including and Authorities said many of these sites so closely copied the look of legitimate ones that even discerning consumers would be unable to detect the difference.

To boot, many of the websites contained secure socket layer or SSL certificates.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Anchorage, Alaska, last fall intercepted a package from Shanghai, China, containing 41 NFL jerseys. An NFL intellectual property specialist* examined photos of the jerseys. I am not sure why the IP specialist did not examine the actual goods; however, the specialist was able to determine that the stitching, patches, and holographic stickers were not authentic.

Project Copycat’s fashion law lesson for consumers

Counterfeiters are getting increasingly sophisticated. Counterfeiters show true ingenuity in their ways to trick consumers into purchasing their fakes. As Project Copycat demonstrated, protecting yourself from mistakenly buying fakes online goes beyond website appearance.

Paying attention to the full web address and SSL of a website, but also check that the sellers are authorized to sell the particular goods. Counterfeits are usually inferior products and although they can contain similar hangtags and holographic counterfeit protection stickers, the construction of the garments and level of sophistication of hologram printing is likely lacking. Shopping online from unfamiliar companies provides more uncertainty particularly because the site could show you an authentic item but send  you the fake.

Project Copycat’s fashion law lesson for businesses owners

Quality control in your own products help build your brand reputation and help you know how to distinguish your goods from that of copycats. Anti-counterfeiting measures can protect brand equity and customer loyalty.

The more layers or levels of brand protection you utilize, the harder it is for counterfeiters to copy you. Making it harder for counterfeiters to copy your goods can make it less likely that they will. More protection also helps consumers to better determine if they are getting your products. These measures are key to safeguard your brand against fraud, diversion, and grey goods markets. A fashion lawyer can help you create an effective brand protection plan.

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