At a PLI conference, the General Counsel of Colgate-Palmolive dramatically pointed out that “Counterfeit is the crime of the 21st century – estimates run as high as around 10% of the world’s commerce.” If that estimate is anywhere near true, legal departments of companies who are victims must actively combat counterfeiters (See my post of May 5, 2008: Lenovo law department very involved.).
That said, what is the proper role of the internal legal team with respect to anti-counterfeiting initiatives? The actual boots-on-the-ground chores of finding copycat goods, buying them for proof, or seizing them has periodic, peripheral needs for legal counsel (See my post of June 11, 2008: vendors that locate and acquire fake products.). Legal advice plays a part, but management and enforcement of the anti-counterfeiting program should remain with the business units. The legal budget, for example, should not absorb “buys” of illicit goods (See my post of Sept. 9, 2008: outside law department’s budget.).