Q: We think we can be of assistance in the organization’s product counterfeiting mitigation program. How might we approach this?
A: Companies approach the issue of brand protection, and specifically the problem of product counterfeiting, in different ways.
Some choose to take an “acceptable risk” posture, viewing costs incurred due to counterfeiting of their brands as simply the costs of doing business, and perceiving the cost of fighting counterfeiting to be greater than the losses incurred. While such an approach may make sense from strictly a fiscal viewpoint, it often overlooks the potential risks to consumers and brand equity.
Some companies mount a defense against counterfeiters by employing proactive strategies designed to make products more difficult to counterfeit, but then they do little in the way of pursuing the counterfeiters.
Still other companies take an aggressive approach to anti-counterfeiting but limit their response to legal maneuvers, such as issuing stop and desist letters or filing lawsuits. These companies might even employ private investigators to ferret out caches of counterfeit goods. Often the goal is limited to engaging in seizure actions to take the fake goods off the street.
A few companies may employ aggressive investigative tactics, work closely with law enforcement, and devote money and manpower to taking down counterfeiting networks.
In which of these scenarios should security see a potential role? All of them!
If your company has taken an “acceptable risk” position, security professionals are uniquely qualified to enlighten management to the true risks of product counterfeiting. The position of management may not change, but at least the decision can be made with a complete understanding of what the risks deemed “acceptable” really are.
If a company has taken the proactive approach to simply make products harder to counterfeit, security experts can be invaluable in assessing whether the protective strategies are working.
Companies taking a strictly legal approach of filing lawsuits and conducting seizures often don’t understand that investigations are more than simply finding the fakes and seizing them. They require a deeper dive to ascertain where, why, and how the counterfeiters are operating and what will dissuade them from continuing. Taking a holistic analysis of the entire counterfeit supply chain is critical. Who knows investigative strategy better than security professionals?
Lastly, in those few companies that take a “full force” approach, coordination and cooperation with law enforcement are always enhanced by engagement of security professionals who bring the skill sets law enforcement officials respect.
The effectiveness and efficiency of anti-counterfeiting strategies varies widely by product, geography, and timing of implementation, so there is no “one size fits all.” Security professionals tend to eschew a “throw it and see what sticks” approach; rather, they advance an “evidence speaks” approach. This can be invaluable to company leaders trying to fight what they don’t understand.
Product counterfeiting damages profits, company reputation, and above all, the very consumers who give life to the company. If that is not a role for security, what is?
Answer provided by Walt Clements, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty member.