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Fake Drugs, Wine, Handbags, and Designer Goods in New York City

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 10/3/2006 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  What might seem like a simple pleasure of buying an overpriced counterfeit item that is cheap in comparison to the real thing, has, in fact, fueled a dishonest industry that distorts every aspect of our lives.

Being deceived, of course, is always an outrage. That said, here's an update on today's counterfeit scene, from drugs to wine to Target, that will make you wonder about who and what you can trust.

Counterfeit Drugs:

    Nick Huge (Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2006) reports that the World Health Organization estimates that up to 10% of the world's pharmaceutical drugs might be counterfeit, and in third-world countries, this could be greater than 50%.

    The business for counterfeit drugs is so brisk that, by 2010, the $75 billion generated by illegal drugs could outstrip the annual growth of the legal variety. Worried? Don't buy your drugs over the Internet, a popular means of distribution, unless you are really sure of the source. Super low price? Fuggetaboutit. Mr. Huge further indicates that evidence related to illegal sales points to organized crime with some connections to terrorism.

Counterfeit Wine!

    Top vineyards from Italy to France are being ripped off. Consumers pay the full price for, let's say, authentic Sassicaia, thinking it's from the Tuscan coast, when, in fact, it is produced in China.

    According to Stacy Meichtry (Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2006 ), Giuseppe Fugaro, who is head of the agriculture antifraud unit in Naples, indicates that more than 6.6 million bottles of fake Falaghina were rounded up in Italy during 2005. In July, 2006, he pulled another 15,000 fake bottles off the shelves.

    And what is the biggest problem? According to Ms Meichtry's article, the quality of counterfeit wines is improving! Some taste good enough to fool seasoned consumers!

But What's Sold in Target and Sam's Club?

    Vanessa O'Connell and Kris Hudson (Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2006 ) report that the Target Corp. is being sued by Coach Inc. for selling counterfeit Coach bags.

    A lawsuit was filed on Friday, September 29 in Manhattan's federal court alleging that bags sold by Target replicated Coach's C-pattern as well as an official "Coach" label. These are sold at relatively high prices and are not the $11.89 similars that Target sells, an inexpensive group also under investigation.

    According to the article, a "bag purchased from a Target store in Largo, Fla is an 'exact replica of a genuine Coach handbag' bearing at least one Coach trademark..." Target says that the fingered bag is, indeed, a Coach, so what's the problem?

And Then There's eBay

    In July, Louis Vuitton and Dior Couture filed a lawsuit in a French court against eBay, alleging that eBay wasn't doing enough to police the commerce on its site. The suit alleges that "nine out of every ten Louis Vuitton brand items for sale on eBay are counterfeit." Hey, surprise!

    Interestingly, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (the company that owns the Louis Vuitton trademark, among many) sued Wal-Mart stores in June "for selling counterfeit Fendi handbags at its Sam's Club warehouses." More amazing to me is that I saw Fendis in a special deluxe-item case at our local Sam's Club and wondered what they were doing there!

So Who Can We Trust?

    That said, you should visit the Fendi store in New York City to see what really high-end products look like. Touch them. Feel them. Smell them! Fendi's soft, "mirrored" leather is to die for and the counterfeiters haven't reproduced it ... yet.

    Is Wal-Mart no better than a street merchant? According to O'Connell and Hudson, Wal-Mart paid the Tommy Hilfiger Corp. $6.5 million to settle a suit alleging it sold fake clothing in 1999.

Counterfeit versus Similar:

    But what is a counterfeit and what is a "similar?" Today, Coach is also suing Target over products that are patently "similars," although Coach alleges that their trademarked logos are being fraudulently reproduced. These logos and/or designs appear on an Isaac Mizrahi tote and a Cherokee bag selling for $11.89. Actually, I honestly don't think many people would be fooled, but Coach is up in arms.

    Similars are "in," of course. One of the most popular fashion outlets in New York City, in fact, is H&M, with a fabulous "must visit" store on 5th Avenue, among many locations. The whole point of H&M is to sell knockoffs, or so it seems.

Flaunt It?

    Check out www.anyknockoff.com for a selection of over 2,000 handbags that resemble designer bags.

    Does the abundant availability of similars hurt or harm the trade? Many industry professionals believe that similars actually stimulate brand awareness, rather than rob business. Why? Fashion trends always trickle downhill, with most consumers being oblivious as to the origin of their goods, no matter how high end the original was. Perhaps, when consumers open Vogue or Bazaar, they think "why...that bag looks just like mine," thus becoming aware of a new purchasing option.

Questions? Comments?
Karen Little

Read Littleviews' Series on Fake Bags and Counterfeiting in NYC:

Copies are a Canal Street specialty, 7/6/03

How real designer bags compare with fakes, 8/6/03

Pictorial essay on illegal activity, 9/18/03

Learn about a TimeOut New York article on this subject, 9/26/04

Counterfeit merchandise seized in New York City, 6/30/05

Fake drugs, wine, handbags, and designer goods in New York City, 10/3/2006

Fake bags and counterfeiting in 2007 in New York City, 12/8/2007

Louis Vuitton Wins Federal Counterfeit Case in Manhattan Court, 10/26/2008

Counterfeitting Activity in New York - January 2009 through January 2010, 2/23/2010

Article by Karen Little. References: Wall Street Journal Articles: Fighting Fakes, 8/2/06; Top Vineyards Fend Off Bogus Bottles- 'French' Vintages Produced in China, 8/10/06; Can Fashion Be Copyrighted? 9/11/06; Not Our Bag, Coach Says in a Lawsuit Alleging Target Sold Counterfeit Purse, 10/3/2006. This article was first published on 10/3/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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