Albert Tsui is an intellectual property lawyer who has extensive experience working with companies impacted by counterfeiting. Based in China, he has valuable insights not only about the growth of the counterfeit industry, but also how companies can protect themselves from this threat. One of the key solutions he recommends is our blockchain-based anti-counterfeiting platform. Read our interview with Albert to find out more.
1. Hi Albert, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you provide us with some background about yourself and your work?
I’m a qualified lawyer in Hong Kong and China. I qualified in Hong Kong in 2006, and then flew to Beijing to become a representative of an international law firm’s Beijing office. I’ve now been in Beijing for 13 years.
I began my career in counterfeiting and intellectual property. Each country has specified laws, and fortunately since WTO harmonizes global IP laws, Chinese trademark and patent laws are not that much different from those of Hong Kong. I received my Chinese legal qualifications in 2010, and then worked with Motorola, Google and Lenovo for eight years. Last year, I came back to private practice with Dentons.
2. In your work as an Attorney at Law at Dentons, what are some common patterns you see with cases relating to intellectual property theft online?
I have witnessed the shift from offline to online infringement. People had no concept of online counterfeiting 10 years ago. People did not have trust in online transactions, so only spent money on small online purchases. But gradually, reliance on online shopping grew, and counterfeiting became trendier. With the rise of counterfeiting and the shift to online counterfeiting, there was no longer a need to go to bazaar to obtain fake goods.
There are sometimes not many ways to identify a counterfeit as counterfeiters are getting smarter. For example, they may fake an authorised letter from Motorola, or change the validity date and continue with their counterfeiting activities. In China, the counterfeiters will try to outsmart you.
3. The counterfeiting industry is rapidly expanding, and counterfeiters are taking advantage of increasingly sophisticated means of producing counterfeit goods. Are there any new or notable counterfeiting methods you have become aware of?
I’d like to share a case I came across before in the mobile phone industry. The online counterfeits of the phone the counterfeiters were selling were not counterfeit per se, as they were collaborating with some workers in the official factory. They would steal genuine parts of the mobile phone, put together, and sell it. Or, they would steal the packaging so people with no expertise could not tell if it was real or fake. Counterfeiters are getting more creative with their attempts, unfortunately.
4. Online counterfeiters are not only getting better at manufacturing counterfeit goods, but also finding ways to evade prosecution. How do you think online platforms can assist brand owners in tracking them down?
Counterfeiters want to have an active marketplace, so seek out large marketplaces like Alibaba or JD.com. Counterfeiters increase their traffic, but also hurt their reliability. I am not saying that these websites are turning a blind eye to counterfeiting and trying to appear like the nice guys, but at least there is an actual, undeniable conflict of interest issue that brand owners should be aware of.
So working with online platform has become tricky. For example, when a brand sees fake goods in Alibaba and finds it so hard to file complaints, Alibaba will ask the brand to sign up to be part of their anti-counterfeiting alliancenetwork. Once the brand signs up, they would publicize it, utilize it to endorse the alliance, and keep saying that it recognizes their anti-counterfeiting “efforts”. That looks good to their PR, particularly as they are US-listed. But it is hard to say how much this alliance has actually helped the brand.
Then the brand realizes that the alliance not helping. Alibaba will advise the brand to operate a flagship store so that users would know where to find genuine products. But has the faking issue stopped? No, it is still there.
So, the story keeps looping, when they ask a brand for more and more. Alibaba earns the PR, the traffic, the users, everything, without actually giving out much in return. I sometimes can’t help being skeptical working with them. But I can’t get away with it. I need partners like simplyBrand to work together to exert more pressure on online platforms.
5. As an increasing number of businesses take their businesses online, what measures would you recommend they take if they are counterfeited?
I would recommend that businesses first contact a legal firm. They should then use simplyBrand’s services to conduct ground level work and investigate online counterfeiting activities. simplyBrand can track down serious counterfeiters and generalize data so that a complaint can be filed. As a lawyer who wishes to provide total solution to our clients, I don’t like to monopolize work. I’d rather love to work with partners like simplyBrand to resolve our clients’ issues from all perspectives.
6. simplyBrand’s blockchain-based solution to eliminating online counterfeiting is seen by many to be a revolutionary approach to this insidious problem. The solution not only helps businesses to identify instances of counterfeiting, it also disincentivizes counterfeiters from counterfeiting their goods in the first place. In your opinion, how can you see simplyBrand’s solution helping to fight against online counterfeit goods and lawyers who are in the same battlefield?
Some people may see simplyBrand as a threat that is trying to replace lawyers. However, I see it as an interesting way to assist brand owners protect their businesses from counterfeiting. Legal action is just one solution, and a more technical, cutting-edge solution can come from simplyBrand. Legal action is the ultimate solution for our clients, if other solutions aren’t effective. I believe that simplyBrand can provide the technical solution to help us.
Many lawyers are terrible with numbers (*laughing*). They might have done a terrific job but don’t have data to support. I think simplyBrand can really help lawyers in winning clients and proving their good work.
7. The reason simplyBrand uses blockchain technology is so that it can leverage its powerful immutable and distributed features. How important a role do you think blockchain technology will be to the anti-counterfeiting space?
I think blockchain is a very interesting technology. While I am not too familiar with it, from what I have learned so far I think it can play an important role in the anti-counterfeiting space. I know that simplyBrand has proven experience with anti-counterfeiting, so it makes sense for the company to look to the latest technology to keep developing its anti-counterfeiting efforts.
8. In addition to blockchain technology, our solution also draws on machine learning and crowdsourcing to stop counterfeiters in their tracks. Do you think that these advanced methods could be the way of the future for stopping counterfeiting?
As I mentioned, counterfeiters are getting more and more sophisticated in the methods they are using. So it makes sense to fight them with the use of advanced technology. There are already many measures in place to help to tackle the problem of counterfeiting, however the problem keeps growing. So alternative methods, like the one simplyBrand offers, have the potential to make an impact.
9. As we touched on, simplyBrand is a proactive solution to online counterfeiting. Given that prevention is key to protecting intellectual property, can you see a use case for simplyBrand preventing cases of counterfeiting before businesses require legal assistance?
Companies can’t fight fakes along alone. I think that they can work with simplyBrand to help ensure the anti-counterfeiting doesn’t get out of hand. Of course, hiring a lawyer is a very costly operation. So if simplyBrand can help businesses to identify and deal with fakes before the issue requires legal assistance, that would be beneficial to many businesses.
10. While many anti-counterfeiting solutions work in an isolated manner, simplyBrand works with a number of different parties, including third parties like law firms. Do you think it would be beneficial for law firms to partner with simplyBrand?
Yes, I think it would be a beneficial collaboration. Law firms could leverage the data simplyBrand provides and work with simplyBrand to eliminate and address the problem of online counterfeiting. It would be really helpful to work with a company that is completely dedicated to anti-counterfeiting. Especially as simplyBrand is actively seeking enforcement agencies to work with, it makes sense for law firms to be part of the process.
In order to address the growing problem of online counterfeiting, simplyBrand has developed an advanced ecosystem that draws on artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and crowdsourcing. simplyBrand is currently in pre-sale stage, meaning that you can get ready to access all of the benefits of our cutting-edge technology by purchasing our token, SBA. For more details, go to our website, or buy SBA now on COBINHOOD.
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