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Feds taking on fakes: more to come?

Published June 26, 2012

DENVER, CO (BRAIN) Wednesday June 27 2012 — Andrew Love hopes the feds’ recent bust of a counterfeit cycling gear scheme in Denver is a sign of things to come.

As head of brand security for Specialized, Love spends his days stalking counterfeiters online and shutting down illegal eBay auctions. The Denver case—which netted four arrests and fake jerseys, wheels and handlebars valued at $285,000—is the first time Love has had backing from government agents, as well as the largest one-time seizure he’s seen.

The 18-month investigation was handled through the government’s National Intellectual Property Rights Center after Love presented investigators with his legwork.

He thinks it got attention amid more serious criminal matters because of the safety concerns surrounding counterfeit bikes—to prove his point Love sent a frightening picture of a fake Tarmac sheared at the headtube—as well as the IPR Center’s goal to protect U.S. jobs by cutting off the pipeline of counterfeit consumer goods.

Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the Central region of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under which the IPR Center falls, said the feds work with a number of industries on trademark violations and counterfeit goods, and that this particular case was pursued on the basis of a good lead.

“I can’t tell you there’s going to be another [cycling-related] investigation next week or next year. I can only tell you that enforcing intellectual property rights is a high priority for ICE and why it established the IPR Center,” Rusnok said.

For Love, the Denver case represents the progress that can be made when brand owners, government law enforcement and Internet companies like PayPal and eBay team up to tackle counterfeits, a huge threat to apparel, component and high-end frame sales.

Much of the onus, however, is on brands to be diligent about staying on the trail of fakes so they have a promising case to hand over to the feds with details on the suspects and the scale of the operation, Love said.

Love, who heads a security team with one other full-time employee, a Chinese-language specialist, and 10 part-timers who also hold other jobs within Specialized, has shut down 62 websites and removed 4,659 listings of counterfeit goods worth $3.89 million in the past 16 months.

Still, new sites pop up all over the world every day.

“We have to fight this tooth and nail,” he said. “The word on the street among counterfeiters you want to have is ‘Don’t mess with Specialized,' and eventually 'Don’t mess with the cycling industry,’” Love said.

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