When you see a Louis Vuitton bag being sold outside a bodega, do you think, “Hey, here’s an opportunity for a great deal!” Probably not. But enough people buy high-end luxury item rip-offs to make it a half-trillion dollar industry in the US alone.
Whether end-buyers know they’re being scammed or not is a small issue when you consider the true nature of the business. The profits from counterfeit products fund terrorism, organized crime cartels, and all sorts of shady goings-on around the globe.
The shocking truth is that 2.5 percent of all global imports into the United States are fake versions of desirable, brand name products. Could these products end up on the shelves of respected stores? Absolutely. The fraudsters who make these knock-off products have gotten good… really good. Some counterfeit handbags, shoes, and clothing can even fool the experts.
What’s Being Done to Protect Companies from IP Theft
It’s been in the news recently that the U.S. Government is taking intellectual property infringement more seriously than ever. In fact, the issue has been raised a number of times, especially in regards to the world’s #1 culprit, China.
The U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (a.k.a. IPEC) recently released the 2018 Annual Intellectual Property Report to Congress, further stating the department’s commitment to the protection of copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property.
The report also stated that IP theft is a threat to not only companies but American workers, as well as consumers who are unknowingly purchasing knock-off goods.
US Customs and Border Patrol, along with ICE officers, have stepped up efforts to confiscate these phony products as they’re smuggled across the southern border with Mexico, a favorite route to enter the U.S. market. But what can be done about those fake items that make it past the sentries at the gate?
Technological Breakthroughs in AI Combat Sales of Counterfeit Products
As the war against fakes rages on, several forward-thinking tech companies have entered the battle with exciting new solutions. Anti-counterfeit algorithms are being developed that utilize gargantuan databases of detailed information about the world’s most popular brands. The algorithms examine scads of data, searching for minute discrepancies and inconsistencies to determine whether an item is genuine or not.
Goat AI Gives Sneakers an In-Depth Analysis
One company, called Goat, has skin in the game. Primarily an internet retail platform for resellers of luxury sneakers, Goat wants to make sure no fakes are getting through. They’ve developed a two-step system that involves both human and technologically-assisted analysis.
First, resellers submit photos of their sneakers to be assessed by human experts. Then, when the shoes pass the human test, they’re shipped to Goat where they must pass AI authentication. Andy Shin, CTO at Goat, boasts that the company has the broadest, most inclusive database of sneakers globally. This massive sea of sneaker-related information is scanned, sorted, and analyzed to weed out the fakes.
Entrupy Takes on the Counterfeit Handbag Business
Another company, Entrupy, is dedicated to the task of authenticating luxury handbags. They’ve developed an extensive database of authentic handbag information dating back 80 years. Utilizing microscopic images, their proprietary algorithm analyzes the tiniest details.
When examining a potential fake, a counterfeit specialist uses a special device that allows photos to be taken of the bag at 250 times magnification. These photos are then sent for comparison using the Entrupy software. The company only works with elite companies and is not available to the public as of yet.
Tackling Online Counterfeit Fashion Sales
Selling fakes online had been relatively easy up until CounterFind came along. Now, online counterfeit hucksters are running for cover.
The company was founded by Dallas Cowboys legend Darren Woodson to help stop the sale of online fakes in the sports and entertainment world.
The software developed by CounterFind works in real time, tracking down unlicensed internet sellers who use ads to promote their counterfeit listings on e-commerce sites and platforms. When found, the software submits counterfeit ads and production listings for deletion from the marketplaces. This helps brands avoid the crushing losses that come from unlicensed knock-offs.
CounterFind users have access to a dashboard that shows the number of shutdowns, blacklisted ads, top violating websites, as well as the number of Facebook ads reported and pages monitored. Best of all, it shows brands the estimated revenue saved as a result of this vigilant monitoring.
The fight to protect the intellectual property of brands, entertainers, and sports stars may never end. At least through technological innovation and governmental efforts, the losses are being reduced making counterfeiting less lucrative and much more difficult.