Monday, June 05, 2006

Counterfeit goods ... how to spot one.
The last few weeks have provided a wave of news that helps us build a clearer picture of just how bad the problem of counterfeits can get, and how hard it is getting to spot them.
  • Bausch & Lomb has recalled millions of bottles of ReNu ($200 millions) and is potentially liable ($ billions) as a result of contaminated contact lens fluid - and the inevitable flood of personal injury lawyers builds (such as as the hysterical 1-800-BAD DRUG). This product was real - not counterfeit. But the case shows just how much damage a contaminated fake will do to a brand. Needless to say, counterfeiters don't worry about such things as cleanliness and bacterialogical and fungal control.
  • Bosch, the German auto parts maker, has stepped up it's efforts to curb counterfeiting of spare parts - where it is particularly rampant in the Middle East. Unsubstatiated estimates suggest 30% of parts are fake. Bosch has launched a public education effort to attempt to dampen demand.
  • MSNBC's Dateline ran an investigative piece on Sunday, "uncovering" the shocking facts of the counterfeit drug trade for TV viewers. Katherine Eban, of course, already uncovered this tangled web of deceit, lies, bureacratic foot-dragging, and political finger-pointing in her excellent 2005 book "Dangerous Doses" (which has just been published in paperback). Indeed, she exposed the same cases: Procrit, Epogen, Lipitor, Retrovir... and the Dateline program has updated the list with counterfeit Viagra, Arisept, Norvasc, Crestor, Vaniqa, Xenical and Tamiflu. At the end of the program they talked about RFID - about the trials with Viagra and Oxycontin... but widespread RFID is widely expected to be about a decade away and faces awesome hurdles.
  • Virginia police busted a sporting goods retailer for selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of fake Nike and Timberland product. Once again we hear that "the fake boxes are perfect, the boots are perfect." Genuine Timberland boots have a leather shoe lace through them that are sealed with a honey wax on the end, while the fakes are sealed with plastic on the end. A representative of Nike shoes told police that for many of the counterfeits, "they have to cut the soles open to know whether they're real or not."
Isn't it time that consumer's had a better way to tell if their products are real or not other than closely inspecting the font on the label or cutting open the soles on their sneakers? We think so.