Wednesday, June 8th is Anti-Counterfeiting Day. Do your part to help create US legislation to end dress counterfeiting by spreading the word and signing this very important petition:
How You Can Help:
Send targeted email blasts
Social media posts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
Educate others about Anti-Counterfeiting Day and provide them with a link to the petition: https://wh.gov/is6cE.
In order to get an official update from the White House, a total of 100,000 Signatures in 30 Days is required! Spread the word today.
ABPIA President Steve Lang recently visited Washington, D.C. and attended the Senate Finance Committee meeting before also meeting with the FBI, Customs, Homeland Security as well as other law enforcement authorities involved with the fight against counterfeit goods.
Senator Robert Menendez pressed US Customs to increase its efforts to stop counterfeit goods from entering the United States, which are appearing more frequently as small packages are ordered online. Menendez told the story of constituents in his home state of New Jersey who were under the impression that they ordered top-line bridal dresses from a discount website but received low-quality “knock-off” dresses instead.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), recently appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance to give an update on the CBP’s progress. “Customs and Border Protection is implementing a multifaceted approach to e-commerce, particularly as it impacts sales and imports through the mail and express environments. We are educating consumers and working with major e-commerce businesses to identify and prevent the sale and import of counterfeit or dangerous products,” Kerlikowske said in his testimony. “Strong partnerships with our federal enforcement counterparts, effective targeting of high-risk shipments, and frontline interceptions of cargo… produced more than 28,000 seizures of fake products in 2015, with an estimated MSRP of $1.35 billion.”
Search engines like Google bear some responsibility for the illegal trade because “they seem to aid and abet these counterfeiters by failing to police the use of copyrighted productive imagery in online ads,” Menendez argued. “But Customs also needs to step up its activity to stem the flood of counterfeit goods,” he added.
The ABPIA now has seven influential senators and congressman members as allies in the fight against counterfeit goods. The ABPIA board members and its allies are scheduled to meet in June with the Canada Border Services Agency, who sought out the ABPIA to join in the fight.
To see the entire video of the Senate Finance Committee hearing on US Customs and Border Protection, click here. Commissioner Kerlikowske gave his testimony at
36:00 and Senator Menendez speaks at around 55:30.
The American Bridal & Prom Industry Association (ABPIA) represented by Craig S. Hilliard, Shareholder at Stark & Stark, recently received final judgments in several federal lawsuits against various international bridal and prom counterfeiters. These judgments were issued throughout the month of June and brought an end to more than two years of litigation.
The ABPIA is a not-for-profit organization founded in July 2012, and since its creation, has gained over 400 members, including designers, manufacturers, retailers and others in the formalwear industry. The organization was started with the goal of combating formalwear counterfeiters, which have become a growing threat since the advent of the Internet.
The ABPIA started filing lawsuits in late 2012, against over 1500 different websites engaged in the sale of counterfeit products to unsuspecting customers. Early on in the lawsuits, ABPIA was successful in disabling the counterfeiters’ websites and seizing assets, located primarily in PayPal accounts. With this final decision, these websites and their domains were permanently shut down and transferred, along with the remaining assets, to the ABPIA, totaling about $2.2 million. To date, close to $3 million has been received from various judgments.
“This decision is a landmark for our organization,” said Stephen Lang, ABPIA’s President and CEO of Mon Cheri Bridals, LLC. “But it’s only the first step in an aggressive path we are taking to cut off the flow of counterfeit formalwear products into this country, because those fake goods harm both consumers and the legitimate designers and manufacturers who invest millions each year in offering their creative work to those consumers. With these recent victories, the ABPIA will be intensifying its efforts in the coming months to battle counterfeits, educate consumers about the dangers of counterfeit products and work with the state and federal agencies and legislators to both enforce and improve the laws protecting customers and designers.”
Sarah Weber bought her wedding dress online in order to save time and money — but she says the dream dress she hoped for turned to a nightmare.
Weber paid about $200 for a beautiful lace gown, but when her purchase arrived just two weeks before her January wedding, the Belcamp, Maryland, woman told “GMA” Investigates that the dress looked nothing like it did in the picture.
“The measurements weren’t right, there’s black dirt on the bottom of the dress, there’s strings hanging out the bottom,” she said, adding: “The buttons were falling off … It’s heartbreaking when you want something to look beautiful and it’s a hot mess.”
“I was crying, I was hysterical,” she said.
There are numerous websites that sell wedding dresses and bridal party attire some customers have found to subpar. Many of the websites are based in China.
On SiteJabber.com, a website that allows consumers to rate online businesses, there are thousands of complaints about situations like Weber’s, and Facebook also has pages devoted to dress disasters.
To see what would happen, “GMA” Investigates ordered three dresses from Chinese-based websites that have received poor reviews. We sent exact measurements for one of our producers standing in for a bride and bridesmaid.
Two of the dresses we received had real problems. For the bridesmaid’s dress, the zipper wouldn’t close and the proportions were off. The wedding dress arrived dirty and with unfinished edges and puckering in the bust.
Brides aren’t the only one feeling as though they got a bad deal. Some sites reportedly outright steal designs, making it look like they offer designer dresses at a fraction of the price. Some sites even take photos from designers’ websites, but what brides-to-be get is often far from the real deal.
In a public service announcement, Jim Verraros, vice president of Bridal Expo Chicago and member of the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association, cautioned brides about the potential cost of purchasing a knockoff designer gown online.
“Look, weddings can be a little expensive but buying a designer gown from unauthorized online websites is a huge mistake,” he said in the video. “It’s not a good way to save money because you will be receiving counterfeit goods. It’s nearly always a bait and switch scam.”
“GMA” Investigates visited Martin Thornburg, the head designer for David Tutera wedding gowns, to see just how different the fakes are from the real thing.
Asked how it felt to see a counterfeit of his design, Thornburg replied: “It’s very upsetting … You would almost call it a Halloween costume, compared to a very fine garment,” he said.
Thornburg ordered ripoffs of his own designs from one of 1,100 counterfeit dress websites that a federal court has since ordered be shut down. On one of the counterfeit dresses, Thornburg said, “you can see they’ve used all plastic stones, that’s why these look black, none of the seams are covered.“
The fakes cost less than $320. His designs are nearly $1,000 more.
Luckily for Weber, she found a new dress at David’s Bridal and got rush alternations. She offered the following advice: “Spend a little extra money because in the long run, it will be worth it.”
Click above to watch Senator Menendez Speak About Customs Enforcement at Finance Meeting
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in conjunction with Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was able to include in the final report language in the recent customs reauthorization legislation that the United States Senate Finance Committee marked up. The Committee will need a couple of weeks to publish the final report. This is a first, but significant step forward because the report directs Department of Homeland Security to focus on the mislabeling of imports as gifts. Now the entire Senate Finance Committee in a bipartisan manner, is on record regarding this important issue. This action should help motivate Customs and Border Patrol to potentially increase enforcement. This is a positive development, but still the beginning of our long journey.
Below is a colloquy between Senator Menendez and Chairman Hatch. The Chairman and his staff share our opinion and this issue and was glad to work with our organization on moving it forward.
Section 305(a)(8): In developing and implementing the risk-based alert system to improve the targeting of persons that repeatedly infringe intellectual property rights, the Secretary of Homeland Security should FOCUS ON the propensity to commit violations of other U.S. customs and trade laws, including the evasion of duties, taxes, and fees, ESPECIALLY BY THE MISCATEGORIZATION OF COMMERCIAL MERCHANDISE LABELED AS GIFTS.
By: David P. Willis, Asbury Park Press, APP.com Read the original article here.(Photo: COURTESY MON CHERI BRIDALS )
On Wednesday, the state Division of Consumer Affairs warned consumers of websites that appear to offer genuine wedding dresses at low prices that turn out to be poorly made frocks.
It’s not a rare occurrence. Last year, buyers in the United States purchased approximately 700,000 counterfeit wedding and prom dresses from overseas retailers who advertised online. Brides received dresses that didn’t match their online photos and descriptions and were instead made with inferior fabric and workmanship.
The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association estimates that counterfeit dresses, which are streaming in primarily from China, cost the industry about $300 million a year. The average store is losing about $30,000 to $40,000 annually to counterfeiters.
“It’s not just limited to videotapes and movies and things. It’s endemic to the apparel industry,” said Stephen N. Lang, the association’s president and chief executive officer of Ewing-based Mon Cheri Bridal LLC. “It is a huge problem.”
It’s also ruining weddings.
Consumers reported that dresses needed expensive alterations if they were wearable at all, the Division of Consumer Affairs said in its alert. Others had to buy a new dress just days before a wedding, prom or other event.
“Given the amount of time, attention and money that goes into planning a wedding or other formal event, consumers want their formal wear, including dresses, to be just right,” acting Director Steve Lee said in a statement. “Beware of websites that appear to offer quality dresses but actually sell poorly made counterfeits – and leaving you spending more for a replacement dress at the last minute.”
It’s difficult to tell the difference between a website that sells genuine designer dresses and one that sells cheap knockoffs. Fakers offering counterfeit dresses often use photos and other artwork copied directly from those used by brand-name designers, the alert said.
“Some of the sites are very, very good,” Lang said. “They are good because they steal our intellectual property.”
So what do you do when you’re shopping online for a wedding dress?
• Buy from a retailer that is authorized by the designer to sell its dresses. If the store or website of the designer’s dress is not listed on the brand name’s website as an authorized dealer, it may be a counterfeiter.
• Pay close attention to the advertised price of a designer dress. If you see a strikingly low-ball, cheap price on a website, it may be a fake. For instance, if you see a $900 or $1,500 dress priced at $129, it’s too good to be true, Lang said.
• Call the seller. Speak with a real person and ask questions so you can determine whether the business is legitimate.
• Search the Internet. Find out more about the seller’s reputation.
• Read the seller’s return and cancellation policies.
• Find out if the online seller has a store. Make a telephone call to determine whether it has a listed, working telephone number.
David P. Willis: 732-643-4039; firstname.lastname@example.org; facebook.com/dpwillis732
CONSUMER ALERT: New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Advises Consumers to Beware of Websites Offering Poor-Quality Counterfeit Dresses
The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General released a consumer alert warning on the presence of websites selling counterfeit dresses and formalwear. The consumer alert warns that it “can be very difficult to tell the difference between a website selling genuine designer dresses, from one that sells counterfeits. Websites offering counterfeit dresses have been known to use photos and other images that are copied directly from those used by brand-name designers.”
The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General advises, “There are several steps consumers can take when shopping online for a wedding dress or other formalwear:
- If you are seeking an authentic brand-name dress, one way to ensure its authenticity is to buy from a retailer who is authorized by the designer to sell their dresses. If a store, website, or retail company offering the designer’s dress is not listed on the brand name’s website as an authorized dealer, it may be part of a counterfeit operation.
- If you are shopping for a specific dress across multiple websites, pay close attention to the advertised retail price. If one store or website is offering the same brand-name dress at a substantially lower price, it may be selling low-quality counterfeits.
- Be sure to thoroughly read the seller’s return and cancellation policies. You should know these policies even when dealing with a genuine wedding dress retailer.
- Find out whether the online retailer is associated with a brick-and-mortar location. Find the website’s contact information, and make a phone call to determine whether it is a listed, working telephone number.
- Call the seller. Speak with a real person and ask as many questions as necessary to determine whether the business is legitimate. Ask for written confirmation of any guarantees they make. Ask for proof of the quality and brand name of the item you consider purchasing.
- Learn as much as possible about the company’s reputation. Perform an Internet search for positive or negative customer reviews.
- Consider paying by credit card. This means of payment provides a clear record that may enable you to dispute the charges with your credit card provider if you are cheated.
- Many websites offering counterfeit dresses are operated by overseas businesses. Beware that, if you are cheated, it can be extremely difficult to obtain a refund from a company not located in the United States.”
To read the full Consumer Alert, click here.
Dear Members of ABPIA,
Consumers scammed by counterfeit sites come into your store every day. Don’t let them walk away without getting their contact information and stories.
We need your help in finding real people who have been ripped off when purchasing fake designer dresses on the Internet. U.S. Senators want to hear their horror stories. So does the media.
Just keep this Catch A Counterfeiter Form handy in your store. Train your staff to use it. Share it on your social media.
It’s easy and fast. Just follow these steps:
- Make copies of the form (either color or black/white) and keep on your sales floor.
- When a counterfeit victim visits your store hand them the form and ask them to fill it out in return for a gift card provided as a “Thank You” from the ABPIA.
- Ask them for photos to send to the email address found at the bottom of the form.
We need each and every ABPIA member to start fighting fakes today. Here’s how you can help:
- Download the Catch A Counterfeiter Form here to your computer for easy printing.
- Share this letter with customers and friends in the industry who may also be damaged by counterfeiters
- Post the link to the Catch Counterfeiters Form on your social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.
Get answers to your questions and your customers questions at www.abpia.org/contact.
The success of our fight depends on reaching real people willing to share their stories.
Please help starting today! The future of our industry depends on you.
Six years ago, I purchased a Montage by Mon Cheri gown for my eldest son’s wedding. I loved the outfit and received many compliments so now that my youngest son is getting married in April of 2014 in Thailand, I wanted to purchase another lovely outfit by this designer. I searched the Internet and found my ideal dress – Social Occasions by Mon Cheri style 114813 in Blush.
As someone who likes to Internet bargain hunt, I searched to find the best price possible. In the beginning of February, I came across www.viennabridal.com and found the dress listed at the excellent price of $283 / £179. I was advised that if I paid via Western Union, I would receive a 20% discount but could not find the link to pay this way. I was happy with the price as it was so I paid with a Visa debit card.
At the time I ordered the dress, the website listed the dress description as well as a guarantee stating, “TJ Formal is an authorized retailer for every Mon Cheri dress including all Social Occasion dresses. When you order from TJ Formal, you will receive an original, authentic Mon Cheri dress. Guaranteed.” I noticed that the website charged all products in US Dollars and although I had a contact email, there was no indication whatsoever of where the company was based. I was having trouble completing my order but when I emailed to ask if I could order over the phone, I was told that the website was based in China with no phone service.
A couple of days later, I received a confirmation email of my payment and order. I was asked to confirm the date of my event as well as the color – Pink or Blush. I replied Blush as that was the color pictured and that my event was in the beginning of March to ensure it would be received in time. I received an email back stating that they my order would process and that I should receive the dress by the end of February.
Toward the end of February, I sent an email to see if my dress had been shipped. They replied that I would receive the tracking number within a week. A week later, I emailed again to see if my dress had been shipped. I received an email back saying that my order was slightly delayed and to confirm the event date so that I would receive it in time. I emailed them again in early March but received NO reply. I sent another email the following day, as it had been one month since I originally placed my order.
Finally, I received an email back saying that they notified the manufacturer to finish dress as soon as possible. They asked for a few more days for production and offered a partial refund for the delay. I asked why it had taken so long to make and insisted that they should not falsely advertise production times that they cannot meet. I did not receive a shipping notification but UPS delivered a dress to me at work the following week.
I was quite excited to receive the dress until I opened a small 12” x 18” UPS bag and found a bright pink dress inside, completely jumbled up and turned inside out. The dress was not at all what I expected: the color was wrong, the material was wrong, and it did not have a slit in the back as pictured. It was also supposed to include a shawl and tasseled belt however there was no shawl and the belt was just a tiny bit of material with beading that did not match the picture on the website. In addition, it did not fit at all. The lining was cut narrower than the actual dress. I could not get it on without a fight and then could not move in it since the lining was buckled up. I requested a US size 12 / UK size 14 but the width of the lining at the bottom by the hem was just 36″.
I immediately emailed the website and advised that I knew that the dress was counterfeit and a fake. I went into great detail about each flaw and explained that it was not at all like the picture. They asked for photographs and measurements over and over again so I forwarded them photos. They advised that I ordered a size 12 and to lay the dress flat, measure it, and take more photos so that they could see if it was their fault or not. I sent this email at least three times but they ignored me. I asked for a full refund and for UPS to pick up the dress at their expense, NOT mine. I also advised that I would be taking legal action. I contacted my bank; they seem to think that they may be able to help in obtaining a refund through Visa and are sending me the necessary forms.
I recently received an email from the website stating, “We make the dress according to the dress picture, the design will be the same but the difference exists, hope you can understand. And we need you to measure the size with a tape and take pictures for us, there would be no problem with the size as it made according to which you gave to us by our professional tailor. I will check the picture and find if it’s our fault to make the dress in wrong size and give you a best solution. By the way, as all our dresses are custom made, if you want to return it to us, we can accept it, but only 30% can be refund after received your dress in original condition. If you choose to keep it, I will submit your order to the company and ask for a partial refund for you as a compensation for your unsatisfication. Thank you so much. ”
Then I received another email from them:
“We didn’t mark anywhere on our website that the dress is original. We make it according to the dress picture. There are two method to solve your problem: If you want to return it to us, we can accept it, but only 30% can be refund after received your dress in original condition. If you choose to keep it, I will submit your order to the company and ask for a partial refund for 50 USD as a compensation for your unsatisfication. Thank you so much.”
I took a snapshot of the webpage that clearly states that they sell original dresses: ”When you order from TJ Formal, you will receive an authentic Mon Cheri dress. Guaranteed.” I contacted TJ Formal in the US asking if they had any connection to Vienna Bridal and was advised that they did not. This counterfeit website is using both TJ Formal’s good name as well as Mon Cheri’s trademarked images.
Since I am usually a very cautious person, I am absolutely gutted that I have been duped in this manner. Now I cannot afford to buy my dream dress and do not have enough time to order a replacement from a reputable store.
An extremely unhappy Mrs. Barbara Emmerton, London, UK, March 2014
Author: Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal
An association representing makers of bridal and prom gowns has launched a litigation attack on more than a thousand websites that allegedly violate their trademarks and sell cheap knockoffs of their products.
The latest salvo, American Bridal & Prom Industry Association v. Loversbridal.com, filed this week in federal court in Trenton, names as defendants 250 sites, with names like bridalshoppingmall.com and 4eveningdresses.com, and asserts claims of trademark counterfeiting and infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, and violation of the New Jersey Fair Trade Act.
The plaintiff, American Bridal & Prom Industry Association of Trenton, seeks damages of $2 million for each mark that has been infringed.
The association’s lawyer, Craig Hilliard of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville, says the rogue sites mislead consumers by falsely identifying their products with the plaintiffs’ trade names, and some include product photos taken directly from plaintiffs’ sites.
Hilliard has brought six such suits in the past year and in some cases has obtained injunctions shutting down defendant sites and freezing their PayPal accounts.
“Ultimately, our goal is to send a message to those who want to engage in this type of activity that the industry is serious about protecting its rights and is serious about pursuing relief for violation of those rights,” says Hilliard.
The gown manufacturers have been plagued in recent years with the onset of overseas entities that use their trademarks and goodwill to sell cheap counterfeit versions of their dresses, Hilliard says in court papers.
Some of the knock-off dresses have the same six-digit style numbers as the higher-cost versions, and a few of the defendant websites even include photos of plaintiff’s stores, to create a false impression that they have a bricks-and-mortar presence in the U.S., Hilliard says.
The plaintiffs ordered wedding gowns from some of the defendants and found them to be “nothing like the genuine dress,” with no country of origin label, no care instructions and no fiber content labeling, Hilliard said in court papers. The defendants’ dresses cost $300 each while the plaintiffs’ dresses that inspired their designs cost $1,500 each.
Most of the defendant websites are registered to addresses in China. They are served with the complaints via e-mails sent to addresses on their websites, Hilliard says.
The association was founded in 2012, in part, to investigate and confront such competition, he says.
Counterfeiters such as defendants are “notoriously difficult to stop,” he says. If one of their websites is shut down they lose no goods or profits but can merely move their business to another site.
But the litigation is intended to chill the defendants’ activities at the very least, Hilliard says.
The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants and their officers and employees from using plaintiffs’ marks, passing off any counterfeit goods as genuine products of the plaintiffs, selling any goods falsely bearing the plaintiffs’ marks, and registering domain names that use or incorporate plaintiffs’ marks.
They further want the defendants’ domain names disabled by registrars of such names, such as VeriSign, NeuStar and the Public Internet Registry, and to have the registrars turn control of those domain names over to the plaintiffs.
Preliminary injunctions have been issued in some of the prior suits filed over the past year and a half.
Only two defendants have responded to the complaints—dressespro.com in the first suit and trendress.com in the fourth case—and both entered into confidential settlements. Each was represented by Mark Ingber, who heads a firm in Millburn, N.J.
Ingber says the plaintiffs are “not really interested in working to resolve their dispute with the particular defendants. The plaintiffs are aggressive in using the law to get the full judgments. When I get involved I’m always behind the eight-ball.”
“There certainly can be meritorious defenses against these plaintiffs,” he adds. “Some of their trademarks are questionable to say the least. It seems to me to be an effort, at least in part, to stop competition, which is legitimate here.”
In addition to filing suits on behalf of his clients, Hilliard has contacted Google and asked it to take a more active role in guarding against sale of counterfeit goods by business using its Sponsored Ads, Sponsored Images and AdWords programs to generate traffic on their websites. The company replied that it would look into the matter, he says.
Source: Toutant, Charles. “Couturiers Suing Websites That Sell Knock-Offs of Trademarked Gowns”. New Jersey Law Journal. ALM Publications, 14 March 2014. Web. 21 March 2014. <http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202646749268/Couturiers-Suing-Websites-That-Sell-Knock-Offs-of-Trademarked-Gowns#ixzz2wtdLnVIq>