February 16, 2012

Fighting back against a growing crime in America (interview)

Mommy Perks was recently invited to interview* Michelle Boykins, the director of communications and marketing of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) (see below).

West Glen shares:

According to research conducted by the National Crime Prevention Council, more than 3 in 4 adults believe illegally downloading a song or purchasing a counterfeit handbag the same thing as robbing someone on the street. Yet 68% still willingly make these purchases to ‘save money.’

While 2 out of 3 adult Americans agree that piracy and counterfeit products are a problem, the public does not believe anyone is getting hurt by making such purchases or that these actions can have an impact on the safety and health of our loved ones. But the truth is, ‘pirated’ and counterfeit products put lives at risk. For instance, nobody would buy dangerous medicines on purpose. But when you buy prescription or even over-the-counter drugs online from unknown sources, you could be doing just that. Counterfeit products such as extension cords or cell phones are dangerous as well. Fake products are made without safety standards and they put you and your family at risk.  Illegal downloads and other pirated products expose your computer to viruses and create an opportunity for criminals to steal your identity.

Here are the questions I submitted along with the replies:

Shara: What’s the greatest risk here for small business owners?

Michelle: Small business owners have a lot to lose with intellectual property theft.  From your trademarked logos and products to trade secrets.  A small business owner often lives or dies on the vine by word of mouth and repeat customers.  If your customers can now go elsewhere to get a fake product that competes with your real product, you stand to lose customers, see reduced profits, have to layoff employees, and may even lose your business.  In addition, small businesses are an important part of the U.S. economy and can be financially devastated when their innovations are immediately copied or reproduced illegally. Let’s face it: “Counterfeits Hurt.”

Shara: If we own/run a business that focuses on writing (parenting or business tips, for instance), does this fall into the potential for “intellectual property theft”?

Michelle: Yes, intellectual property is considered any innovation (commercial or artistic), new method or formula with economic value, or any unique name, symbol or logo that is used commercially. If your tips are your own original writing  or for example, you have a catchphrase or slogan associated with your blog, you have intellectual property that needs to be copyrighted.

Shara: If we feel that our ideas and tips have been stolen, what can we do?

Michelle: If you suspect you have been a victim of intellectual property theft there are three simple but essential tips to remember.

1)     Gather and preserve the evidence.  For example, if your intellectual property has been counterfeited online, you can record the name of the website and  print out the page with the fake merchandise so investigators know where to start.

2)     Contact law enforcement.  Contact law enforcement immediately so they can begin a proper investigation.  Intellectual property theft is a complex issue so don’t be discouraged if you have to talk with more than one agency.  In addition to your local law enforcement you may be encouraged to report the infringement to the FBI local field office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (1-866-DHS-2-ICE), or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

3)    Work with local law enforcement to help identify intellectual property thieves and be sure your customers are educated on how to spot a fake.  NCPC’s intellectual property theft prevention campaign is a great place to start at www.ncpc.org/getreal.


*No compensation was received in exchange for this blog post.


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