A drive past the corner shops of downtown Los Angeles or Manhattan will give anyone an idea of how flagrant counterfeiters of fragrances can be, and how necessary enforcement has become. Unlike counterfeit handbags or apparel, fake perfume is applied to the skin and poses a special health risk to consumers, since some counterfeit fragrances include additives such as urine and antifreeze.
Recently, six foreign nationals were arrested and charged with trademark counterfeiting after the NYPD raided Price Right Perfume and Watches in Manhattan. Bottles bearing the names of leading brands, including Armani, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Kenneth Cole, Liz Claiborne and Davidoff were seized.
Sources close to the investigation said this is the first criminal counterfeit case involving fragrances in Manhattan, and more arrests can be expected. According to Martin Ficke, former special agent of the Department of Homeland Security and chief of operations for a consulting firm, most arrests of this type involve civil litigation; however, this particular case could first be tried as a criminal matter. He explained one of the reasons why these type of cases end up being tried civilly rather than criminally is because the government does not have the resources to handle anti-counterfeiting matters. Ficke is working with the Fragrance Foundation, the NYPD, and a number of leading fragrance companies to make up for this gap in resources and help the prosecution build a criminal case against the defendants.
A major issue for the fragrance industry and enforcement of trademark counterfeiting will be determining how the counterfeit fragrances are brought into the United States. Authorities suspect, although have not confirmed, that most of the items were manufactured in China or Dubai. This is an issue not only for the fragrance industry, but the fashion and apparel industry as a whole, as the industry continues to fight against the siege of counterfeit goods flowing into the United States. This recent enforcement of the anti-trademark counterfeiting laws is a step forward in this fight.