Protecting our Community from Counterfeit Merchandise

November 27, 2020

The holiday shopping season may look very different this year because of the global pandemic. As such, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind community members about counterfeit merchandise and the economic, legal and potential health and safety risks associated with these illegal products.

Recently, our office resolved a case involving a person selling counterfeit merchandise and illegally using the trademark of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The investigation started in May 2019 during the NBA Western Conference Finals. Detectives assigned to the Portland Police Bureau’s White Collar Crimes Unit posed as undercover buyers to work with representatives from the NBA looking for individuals selling fake merchandise. During the investigation, detectives found a person from Seattle, Washington selling hats at a card table across from the Moda Center. The hats had the logo of the Portland Trailblazers and were being sold for $20.

Police eventually located more than 100 hats with counterfeit logos on them. If the hats were legitimate, the retail value was estimated to be nearly $4,200.

The person selling the counterfeit NBA hats received probation and ordered to do community service.

Any time counterfeit merchandise is sold, the legitimate company loses revenue. This translates into negative consequences for consumers, like having to pay higher prices for legitimate goods. A lot of us seek out certain brands because of the product’s quality or other features that have become iconic with the brand. Counterfeiters intentionally deceive the shopper by placing familiar brand names or logos on fake goods that are not produced by the brand owner. Often, the counterfeit items are of much lower quality than the comparable legitimate good. This results in the consumer being deceived into buying an item they didn’t bargain for.

There are other reasons why you should only by from reputable sources. Counterfeit medicine, personal hygiene products, and makeup may contain toxic materials that can endanger your health or the health of your family, including pets. Furthermore, fake electronics and mechanical parts are typically not tested for safety. Phone chargers and batteries can start fires or explode, and car parts can catastrophically fail while you are driving.

Here are some other indicators that can help you determine if a product is counterfeit:

  • The seller is not part of the usual distribution channels. Most legitimate manufactures will only sell product through licensed, authorized dealers.
  • The price is significantly cheaper than what legitimate retailers are selling the same product for.
  • The quality of the product appears off.
  • The packaging is similar but not identical (or missing completely) to the legitimate product.
  • The seller doesn’t have a business license.

A 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that close to half the products purchased online from third-party sellers on popular websites were counterfeits.

If you have discovered an online retailer selling counterfeit or pirated goods or have bought fake products over the internet, report the vendor to one of these U.S. Government agencies responsible for enforcing intellectual property laws.

Locally, you can also contact non-emergency dispatch at 503.823.3333.