On Sunday, February 10, the New York Times devoted a full page in its Magazine to report on a shopping trip to Canal Street’s infamous “Knockoff Row.”
However, this was no piece of investigative journalism, blowing the lid off of widespread counterfeiting in the midst of New York City.
Instead, the article, enticingly titled “Canal Street Booty,” showcases a “sampling of counterfeit goods” available on Canal Street. In addition to photographs of copies of popular designer handbags, the article compares the price of the “real thing” and the [asked- and bargained-for] price of the fake. It even informs readers where they can buy the illegal knockoff.
Whatever reason the Times had for publishing the piece—To seem current? To highlight New York’s edgy sophistication?—the result is deplorable.
Trademark counterfeiting is a serious and widespread crime. If a branded product has some popularity, someone, somewhere is likely knocking it off.
Seemingly everything—from the medicine we take, to the clothes we wear, to the movies we watch, to the toys our children play with—is counterfeited. People are hurt and die from counterfeit pharmaceuticals, airplane and automobile parts, electrical goods, and other items. Child labor makes counterfeits, organized crime and terrorists are among those who benefit from it, and governments lose billions of dollars in tax revenues because of it.
For these reasons, governments, brand owners and other interested groups, are engaged in a global effort to fight counterfeiting.
Organizations including the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, the International Trademark Association, a Global Congress and Interpol’s annual IP Crimes Conference, seek to strengthen laws and encourage cooperation aimed at stemming the problem. There have been numerous broadcasts, news articles and other publicity, to educate the public to the fact that counterfeiting and piracy is illegal and potentially dangerous.
It is remarkable the New York Times could be so tone deaf to the global efforts to stop counterfeiting, particularly when that effort is often centered right here in New York City. Fortunately, comments to the on-line version of the New York Times piece indicate its readers know better.
The media should uncover, and report on crime; certainly they have a responsibility not to encourage it with a cynical wink. The Times is no exception.
This article was written by Mark Mutterperl (firstname.lastname@example.org / 212 318 3183) and Saul Perloff (email@example.com / 210 270 7166) of Fulbright’s Intellectual Property and Technology Practice. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.