No Medals for Olympic Counterfeiters

The Olympics are meant to bring together countries from all over the world for a demonstration of collegiality and good sportsmanship. By virtue of the sheer popularity and global appeal of the games, they also attract fraudsters, counterfeiters, and other nefarious characters seeking a cheap buck (or British pound).

Just as the athletes come in many shapes, sizes, and nationalities, so do the types of counterfeits. The games commenced less than a week ago, but we’ve seen no shortage of IP theft surrounding the events.

Perhaps the most prevalent story to come out of the games is the case of the Egyptian Olympic Committee giving their athletes counterfeit Nike apparel and gear. Make no mistake, in the context of the Olympics, these fakes present a risk beyond not looking good, they also could have a significant impact on the performance of the athletes depending on their sport. At a level of competition at which the athletes have specialized gear to maximize performance, counterfeits aren’t even in the ballpark. Just imagine a runner who has spent her whole life for this moment and is failed by a counterfeit running shoe that falls apart on the track. Athletic brands spend substantial time and resources into making the best products, and copying their trademarks to disguise inferior products not only does a disservice to the brand, but also to the athlete. Indeed, the scandal of the Egyptian team came to light because of the complaints of the team.

Also ubiquitous in London and around the world is the prevalence of knock-off souvenirs. While counterfeit flags, fake medals, and Olympic-themed toys seem innocuous, their shoddy design and substandard workmanship could cause concern if they end up in the hands of young fans. Additionally, these counterfeits risk the jobs of the legitimate companies that have properly sought and paid for the right to manufacture and sell authorized products. The intellectual property (IP) rights that protect these products also helps ensure the jobs and investment into the mammoth spectacle that we all enjoy every four years.

Fraudsters also try to pocket some gold by taking advantage of online consumers. Unauthorized websites are promising live streaming of the games, however fans are instead finding themselves victims of phishing, malware, spam, and credit card fraud to name just a few. Consumers should stick to legitimate, authorized sites that will safely satisfy your Olympic viewing desires. The risk of going to an unauthorized site just isn’t worth it.

As people around the world enjoy the games, we could all benefit from little boost in scrutiny of the products we purchase and the websites we frequent. We also need to ensure that IP enforcement around the world is meaningful so these products don’t make it into our homes.

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