Limited crackdowns on counterfeits yield limited results

Filed under: Daily News,News | Tags:

New York’s Canal Street neighborhood has long had a reputation as the place to go for designer knockoffs.

However, during February of last year, New York City police officers cracked down on what they called “the Counterfeit Triangle,” and confiscated more than $1 million in fake goods.

In a news release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called out the counterfeiters.

“Today, the message we’re sending to counterfeiting operators and their landlords throughout the city is, whoever you are, wherever you are, we are going to shut you down,” he said, “(The Counterfeit Triangle) has been one of the most notorious knockoff shopping malls in the five boroughs, one with more than 150 employees operating with impunity 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week, even while the building owners were under a long-standing federal court order to stop counterfeiting activities.”

While making good headlines, the NYPD’s limited effort had a limited effect on the availability of counterfeit goods, said John Macaluso, a partner at Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty, the firm that has long represented Rolex in the United States,

“That slowed them down for a while, but law enforcement, here and everywhere, has a lot of other priorities,” he said. “If you’re going to get raided one day a year, you make up for your losses during the other 364.”

Charles Zerbe, whose downtown store is one of three authorized Rolex dealers in Colorado Springs, said Colorado Springs police also have had some success shutting down vendors of fake Rolexes.

“A couple of years ago, the police brought in a bunch of fake watches that they had seized from a woman who was selling on eBay,” he said. “She had already sold $40,000 worth, at about $800 each, and she only got caught because she stopped mailing the watches to her customers, and they complained. She had plenty of watches, and they were good, as fakes go. It’s hard to figure people out, sometimes.”

Last week, accessory maker Coach Inc. launched Operation Turnlock to help stem the tide of counterfeiting.

The program targets companies and individuals involved in the distribution or sale of counterfeit products through civil litigation in state and federal courts.

“The goal of Operation Turnlock is to make it both more costly and increasingly difficult for vendors to purchase, sell, move, or store counterfeit products in the United States,” said Todd Kahn senior vice president and general counsel for Coach. “We have a responsibility to protect the brand’s core values and further enforce our commitment to this global issue, starting with our home market.”

The zero-tolerance program targets everyone involved in trafficking counterfeit goods, including large wholesale operations, small businesses, Internet sites, purse party operators, street vendors and flea markets selling counterfeit products.

Coach has filed more than 50 civil suits within the past six months in New York, California, Florida, Georgia and throughout the Midwest.

“This is merely the beginning,” Kahn said. “We intend to pursue all infringers – no matter how big or small – using the strong state and federal laws to enforce our rights and protect against the devaluation of the brand.”