By Ron Alvarez
The following extract is recommendations made to IP rights/brand holders to consider in utilizing and selecting private investigators to assist them in investigating and protecting their IP.
This extract was pulled from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement Manual: A Practical and Legal Guide for Protection Your Intellectual Property Rights (2009)[i]
Other key players in any successful anti-counterfeiting program are private investigators. Good private investigators can serve as your eyes and ears on the street, following leads, interacting with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and law enforcement, and sending messages to counterfeiters that you are on the lookout for counterfeit goods. In addition to tracking down instances of counterfeiting, investigators can help train law enforcement and CBP officials to identify counterfeits of your products. Some investigators also provide their own 24-hour hotlines that law enforcement and CBP officials can use whenever they come across suspect goods. While the nature of the brand owner’s business and the geographic scope of its product distribution may determine whether a brand owner can rely on a single investigator or a network of investigators, the following are some suggestions for creating a successful investigator relationship:
Investigation of the Investigator
Because the private investigator often serves as the “face” of the brand owner when interacting with law enforcement, or perhaps, testifying for the brand owner in court, the first step in selecting an investigator is to do your own investigation. Make sure that the investigator provides you with a copy of his or her license and proof of insurance, has an established business with an office, performs thorough background checks on all employees, and has IP experience that can be verified with references from other brand owners.
Particular Strength of the Investigator
The type of investigator needed may also be determined by the brand owner’s particular needs. For example, certain investigators are focused on Internet-based monitoring and investigations, while others may be plugged into certain geographic areas or ports. It may be that the brand owner finds itself depending on a network of investigators to adequately cover its needs.
Just as with CBP and other law enforcement agencies, it is critical for the brand owner to train the investigator to be able to identify the counterfeits of the brand owner’s products. This way, the investigator can always be on the lookout for counterfeits of the brand owner’s products and can share that information with law enforcement officials.
Responsiveness to the Investigator
In a good relationship between the brand owner and the investigator, the investigator will be a constant source of information about potential instances of counterfeiting. It is important, therefore, that the brand owner is available and responsive to the investigator’s reports. Brand owners should create a hotline for reporting counterfeiters or, at least, provide the investigator with a single point of contact for reporting counterfeits.
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