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Protect Your Brands from Counterfeit Sellers' Use of Social Media to Bolster ''Fake'' Credibility

By Camille M. Miller1 and Elizabeth Lai Featherman2 of Cozen O’Connor

Sales of counterfeit products account for up to $600 billion or about 7% of total world trade annually. Counterfeit goods are not merely knock-off designer purses purchased from a street-vendor, but also include pharmaceuticals, toys, cosmetics, and automobile parts such as airbags and brake pads. Many of these products are sold online. A recent study shows that one in six products sold online is counterfeit. A knock-off designer purse or toy may look relatively harmless, but they may have been made with toxic dyes or lead paint. Substandard automobile airbags, untested brake pads or drugs and cosmetics made of unregulated chemicals may cause serious injuries to consumers and severely damage brand owners’ reputations.

The avenues for selling counterfeit goods have grown significantly along with technological advances. Counterfeit sellers set up online presences at auction or e-commerce marketplace websites and ship counterfeit products directly to consumers. They register domain names incorporating one or more targeted trademarks or confusingly similar variations thereof, and set up rogue websites that have the same look and feel as the brand owner’s sites. Often, counterfeit sellers use the I...

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