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Who Is Behind Online Counterfeiting?

May 31, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 197

Numerous federal lawsuits have been filed by Intellectual Property owners in recent years to attempt to address the intensifying online threat from "rogue websites." Additionally, the US Department of Justice and US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seized millions of dollars in assets, as well as shuttered many such websites by utilizing existing criminal laws.

However, while Internet traffic to these sites has been measured and determined to be substantial, little research has been done to empirically survey the existing body of data related to this phenomenon.

A comprehensive empirical survey of over 3,000 Internet websites that federal courts have ordered shut down because of their sale of counterfeit goods has revealed that online counterfeiters can collect immense profits by generating over $10,000 in sales with a $1,000 initial investment.

An analysis of an online counterfeiters' potential profit margin can be summarized in the sample breakdown of typical revenue and costs as follows: The average cost of registering a single Internet domain name: $10-$20 per domain name, annually. The average cost of hosting multiple e-commerce websites on a shared server: $120 to $160, annually. International shipping is either paid for by the customer, or absorbed by seller if it is a nominal cost (less than $10 per item). Credit Card/online payment processing fees: 3-5% of sale price. Wholesale cost of counterfeit goods varies by brand and product category.

For example, a typical counterfeit coat has a $40-$50 wholesale cost, retails for $230-$300 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit handbag: $40-$50 wholesale cost, retails for $200-$300 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit bracelet: $10 wholesale cost, retails for $70-$80 on a rogue website. A typical counterfeit watch: $10 wholesale cost, retails for $160 on a rogue website.

Therefore, starting with a $1,000 investment, if one sets up a hosted e-commerce website ($160) linked to five domain names ($100), and invests the remaining funds ($700) in selling and shipping wholesale counterfeit goods, one could generate: Up to $11,200 by selling 70 counterfeit watches (11.2x the initial investment); Up to $5,600 by selling 70 counterfeit bracelets (5.6x the initial investment); or Up to $4,200 by selling 14 counterfeit coats or handbags (4.2x the initial investment).

This low-risk business model offers a comparable return on investment (ROI) to trafficking in illegal narcotics.

Because of this dramatic ROI, online counterfeiting networks are exponentially spreading on the Internet like an infection. For example, the ROI from a single successful website selling counterfeit products encourages the creation of many more such websites.

Skilled programmers who have access to sophisticated technology and an extensive supply of counterfeit products are creating and operating these sites. To protect their business model, they are employing a variety of creative tactics to frustrate efforts to monitor them and remove them from the marketplace. For example, they dynamically redirect their websites across multiple servers located in different countries.

Significant server bandwidth is dedicated to hosting such sites, with large blocks of server space and IP addresses dedicated to managing the Internet traffic to them.

Counterfeiters' websites are creating significant actual consumer confusion. One reason is that prices for counterfeit goods are designed to be credible to suggest genuine, discounted products rather than low quality counterfeits.

Goods received are typically shipped directly from locations throughout China and Hong Kong, and China is the country most often named as the country of the Registrant. However, Registrants do not usually provide legitimate or consistent contact information when registering new domain names, often using gibberish, nonsensical words and false addresses.

Further, some Registrants are using the "Privacy Protection" services offered by Registrars to purchase a cloak of further anonymity.

Software applications make it easier for infringers to create, register and warehouse thousands of domain names that contain permutations of trademarked brands.

These conclusions make it likely that "rogue websites" selling counterfeit goods will likely continue to proliferate, demanding that legal action be taken by brand owners.

Joseph C. Gioconda, Esq. is an experienced Intellectual Property attorney and consultant, and the founder of the GIOCONDA LAW GROUP PLLC ( http://www.GiocondaLaw.com ), a New York City-based brand protection and anti-counterfeiting law firm. He is also the CEO of RogueFinder LLC ( http://www.RogueFinder.com ) which finds and targets "rogue websites."

Source: EzineArticles
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