NYC Arrests Stop Dead Chinese From Infringing

from the who's-being-harmed-here dept

While all too often we see people lump in “counterfeiting” with “copyright infringement” — despite vast differences between the two — there are some similar issues around each. One key one is how the consumer products and the luxury goods industry massively overstate the “losses” from such activities. The second issue is that there have been multiple studies that suggest many counterfeit good purchases are not substitutes at all. That is, the people buying them know full well that they’re counterfeit. No one is being “tricked,” and no one is being “harmed.” In fact, counterfeit purchases are often aspirational, and studies have shown that people who buy counterfeits very often buy the real product at a later date. That suggests counterfeit sales can actually help the primary company in some cases (certainly not all).

But, now let’s take this to an even more extreme situation. Police in Manhattan recently arrested a shopworker in Chinatown for selling certain “counterfeit” items, “including Louis Vuitton and Burberry handbags.” Except… this wasn’t just a case of selling cheaper versions of the real things, this was a case where the items were supposed to be fakes. That’s because they were being sold at Fook On Sing Funeral Supplies, and they were cardboard objects designed specifically for traditional Chinese funerals, where it’s customary to burn certain items as “symbolic gifts to the deceased.” Rather than burn real goods, it’s become a tradition to burn cardboard versions of the real goods.

So here’s a simple question: how are these luxury companies being “harmed” here. No one could possibly “confuse” these cardboard versions for the real thing. There’s no likelihood of confusion at all. The whole reason they’re being bought is because they’re cardboard fakes. I’m guessing that Louis Vuitton and Burberry would claim that this could hurt their licensing business or reputation or something, but I can’t see how that makes any sense at all either. The whole thing just seems to be yet another case of these companies and law enforcement completely overreacting… and appearing culturally insensitive on top of that.

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Comments on “NYC Arrests Stop Dead Chinese From Infringing”

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53 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

Not always some kinds of trolling actually help other keep a sharp mind because it encourages people to think and be sure of what they are saying.

Some people come here to troll and think that taking the MAFIAA side is good, they could get some laughs out of it, but what they are really doing is training people to come up with responses hard questions since the trolls will most likely zero in on the hard questions of the debate.

If they keep repeating and getting the same answers over and over again chances are that more people will see those same Q&A and be knowledgeable about it being more able to make up their own minds about the subject.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

I would think that LV and Burberrys’ marketing teams would see that this culture values their products over their competitors products. Kinda makes you wonder who’s handbags the living members of this culture purchase?

Also, isn’t this part of the fashion industry, where the knockoffs are supporting the market for the high end stuff? This seems to be against the grain.

Trademark can be used in many ways, one has to get the spin right. This isn’t gonna help.

Hulsersays:

Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

So here’s a simple question: how are these luxury companies being “harmed” here.

I’m not saying that I agree with the tactics being used, but I can think of a way that the Luis Vuitton is being harmed. One could argue that even a moron in a hurry, seeing a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag, might reasonably assume that LV had authorized that product. “Don’t be silly! LV would never sell cardboard cutouts to be used in funerals!” Exactly. And that’s the harm to LV. They could be perceived as being part of an odd, if not morbid business practice.

So, the fact that a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag is a kind of counterfeit is irrelevent. It’s not about people being confused into thinking that a cutout is a real handbag. It’s about people being confused about the use of a company trademark on a product in such a way as to imply endorsement by the company.

Again, I don’t think that any time should have gone into arresting funeral home employees. I’m just saying that on the Batshit-Crazy-Things-Done-By-Big-Companies-To-Protect-IP scale, this one ranks on the lower end.

Onnalasays:

Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

It gets better though. Even if it isn’t ligit and the company doesn’t want something like that on the market, this is getting into the religious spectrum. Where things that are normally not allowed, can happen. Think about it this way, during prohibition, there were still vineyards making wine, a few, for the catholic church. Specifically used during their religious practice.

So by extension… We will leave that question open.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

Having just now learned of this cultural funerary practice, I would be inclined to think more highly of LV and Burberry for filling a niche demand, not “OMG, trademark infringement harming luxury goods companies!” And it’s a sort of advertising as well: these folks thought so highly of these brands that they wanted to take them, however symbolically, into the great hereafter with them.

Hulsersays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

I would be inclined to think more highly of LV and Burberry for filling a niche demand

You might think that way, but to the kind of hyper-brand-aware executive who supports insane IP maximalism, any association with your product to death would be — no pun intented — brand suicide.

Hulsersays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

Seeing a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag at a Chinese funeral supply store, it would never occur to me that Luis Vuitton had anything to do with it.

I don’t doubt what you’re saying is true. My point is that there are plenty of other people out there that would think so, most probably people who aren’t aware of the extremes that companies go to to “protect” their brand. It’d be interesting to see some real polling on this.

hmmsays:

every sale

every sale of a cardboard handbag is a lost sale.

What? you didn’t know that most spirits return to earth for unfinished business which is purchasing accessories for the afterlife? shame on you…shame on you all!

I work out that due to this evil infringement there is $500 billion in lost handbag sales.

I therefore propose a “handbag tax” which will tax everyone $5/month. To make this completely fair the tax will be levied on a ‘per-hand’ basis, so if you have 2 hands you pay $10/month but if you’re lucky enough to have had both arms torn off by a bear then you pay nothing!

I can’t say fairer than that.

Also there will be mass lawsuits. because handbags don’t have IP addresses we can’t use that, BUT (and it’s a big but) the owners have REAL addresses. We shall compile a list of everyone who has an ‘actual address’ and offer to settle out of court for $2500.

Once again this is 100% fair because the homeless will benefit by not being targetted for our shakedown (sorry court-based business model) so what could be fairer?

DogBreathsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: every sale

(some will say this is in bad taste, but it had to be said by someone)

You forgot to add the new scam collection society’s slogan, “It’s for the dead children”

Since the dead can’t sue (but they sure can still vote), the new scam collection society will never have to pay anyone, and will just “hold on” to the money until the dead return one day to collect… or not.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re:

The better question to ask is did LV & Burberry put them up to this or was this just NY cracking down on anything seen as infringing.

It could be that LV & Burberry were completely aware of this and had not done anything about it because they aren’t being hurt by something with such a tiny niche market that a majority of their customers would never come across, and those that did would be thankful to be able to give appropriate gifts to the deceased.

fogbugzdsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

>The better question to ask is did LV & Burberry put them up to this or was this just NY cracking down on anything seen as infringing.

I still consider the IP holders responsible. They are the ones who convinced the police to spend lots and lots of taxpayer money to enforce their private IP rights. If I whip a pit bull into a killing frenzy and turn it loose, then I am responsible for the consequences.

Gwizsays:

….they were cardboard objects designed specifically for traditional Chinese funerals, where it’s customary to burn certain items as “symbolic gifts to the deceased.” Rather than burn real goods, it’s become a tradition to burn cardboard versions of the real goods.

If they burned the real gifts then the EPA would be all over them for polluting the air with toxins and carcinogens and sue them for the HAZMAT clean-up.

Anonymoussays:

Funny enough, it is a little bit culturally insensitive to even sell the stuff to start with. It’s a tacky commercial take on a traditional (and important) part of the way Chinese people mourn their dead and look out for them.

the idea is to burn money so that it can reach them in “heaven”, so they can have a good, comfortable after life. burning fake Gucci bags isn’t exactly the tradition. It’s just hucksterism in a material world.

if the brand name logos are on the stuff, it isn’t really a question of pirated goods, as much as use of trademarks and logos without permission, and implying that the companies support this stuff.

Once again, Mike misses the point and tries to slam everyone except the real criminals.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

So from your tiny sample you have decided that this never happens.

You understand there is life that happens outside of your bubble right?

That even if you never saw it that there are people killed for shoes, watches, sunglasses, etc. every day.
Because you have never seen it happen in the number of times you walked down the street does not mean it does not happen.

There are many cultural differences around the world, and because you were asked to attend a funeral does not mean you were invited to all of the things the family did. That some things are done privately so that judgmental self centered people do not bother them about things they do not understand.

And I can tell you knew you were on shaky ground, you tried to correct grammar rather than attempt to support your statement any more.

Be an honor

It should be an honor, if anything, for those companies, that cardboard facsimiles of such items are being burned in honor of the deceased person. It symbolizes that such goods were important to that person, meaning it could serve as an impetus for the loved ones to go out and buy Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and other products, if only in honor of said deceased person. Basically, not only is this unproductive behavior by the companies, this is counterproductive.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Be an honor

That was pretty funny. What I meant to say was that it should be good for the company in terms of expanding business that the loved ones of the deceased are probably going to end up buying more real Louis Vuitton/Burberry/whatever goods upon seeing how important said goods were to said deceased person, in addition for it being an honor for said company. Still, LOL.

btr1701says:

Counterfeit

We’ve had the same thing come up in counterfeit currency investigations. Asian merchants copy real money and use it to burn at funerals. They’re terrible copies and easily distinguishable from real currency but it still gets out into circulation anyway.

We keep trying to tell these folks that they can’t just copy money, that’s is a serious crime, etc., but they don’t listen.

Dead Chinese don't infringe

Nothing odd here, Mike ; merely yet another attempt to extend US jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of the physical United States – now to the Chinese spirit world. Since the Chinese government may well regard this region as part of its own territory or, at the very least, a core interest, the Pentagon will of course have to beef up its bloated budget by a couple of extra thousand million USD (which the US economy can well afford) in order to meet the potential threat to its full-spectrum dominance….

Henri

Confuse Individualsays:

As I am half chinese myself, I got a bit more indept of the culture aspect of things… and of course I understand the value of ‘copyright’ as wel. But I doubt that those whoes follow the traditions would buy the real brand names goods and burn them as offerings. Honestly I doubt the owners of the said brands would bother with producing cardboard versios.

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