sporting brands

Batter Up, Batten Down: World Series Brings Out Counterfeiters

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 24, 2012 02:14 PM

Members of the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers are spending today readying themselves for the World Series that kicks off tomorrow in California. Players are studying their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Coaches are figuring their strategies. Umpires are readying themselves for extra loads of bile and hatred to be thrown their way. Mayors of the two cities will surely make some kind of jovial bet.

But another team that is also prepping for the big event is Major League Baseball Properties’ licensing group. Yep, the gang that sticks MLB team logos on everything from a “temperature gnome” for your garden and a steering wheel cover to carpet tiles and desk lamps is ready to take the streets and make sure their much-beloved brands aren’t being misused.

Before the first pitch is thrown, the team will be in the streets of San Francisco trying to find counterfeit items on sale to the large number of brand new fans of the team who tend to snap up gear at World Series time in order to prove they’ve loved the team all along.

"We will be in the marketplace undercover working with local authorities," Ethan Orlinsky, MLB Properties' SVP and general counsel told Crain’s Detroit Business. "We ramp up our efforts (during the playoffs). Counterfeiters are trying to prey on the hot market." 

MLB’s squad won’t be the only ones on the hunt, though. They will work with police, sheriff's deputies and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And the goal won’t just be to crack down on vendors selling hats around the stadium, Orlinsky notes. "The ultimate goal is to identify manufacturing sources," he told Crain.

In the past decade, MLB has had 5,000 “raids or other enforcement actions” that have led to more than six million nonlicensed products being seized, the publication reports. But as busy they’ll all be considering the authenticity of key chains and T-shirts on the ground, the larger battle MLB faces is online. According to Crain's, more counterfeit items are being sold via the Internet than on the streets.

But MLB is determined to someday get it to the point where consumers can be sure that their toaster that prints their favorite team’s name on their breakfast is actually the real deal.

[Image: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com]

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