Intellectual Property and Anti-Piracy Investigations
IGI conducts investigations involving intellectual property issues including counterfeiting, piracy, patent infringement, and copyright and trademark infringement, as well as contraband smuggling and so-called “gray market” product diversion.
Our investigations have involved a diversity of products, including computer hardware and software, art, music, films, pharmaceuticals, toys, designer apparel and accessories, watches, cigarettes, and sporting equipment.
IGI’s general approach to IP investigations involves identifying and developing intelligence on those involved in the illegal operations, including the production of counterfeit goods, logistical support systems (including production of packaging materials), export, import, distribution, and sales channels, and – where applicable– corruption of law enforcement and customs officials.
IGI has infiltrated counterfeiting rings by impersonating buyers and suppliers in order to purchase products and collect evidence – both in-person and over the Internet, and at the retail and wholesale levels. IGI also coordinates domestic and foreign customs and law enforcement authorities to effect the interdiction and impounding of counterfeit goods.
IGI works with corporate clients to conduct internal and external investigations of suspected industrial espionage and theft of proprietary information and trade secrets, and to investigate former employees suspected of violating non-compete agreements. IGI also advises clients on methods for protecting company trade secrets and minimizing loss of proprietary information.
- A computer printer manufacturer whose U.S. market was flooded by counterfeit printer cartridges retained IGI to help it reassert control over its distribution and sales channels. IGI identified factories in China churning out the counterfeit cartridges, and traced their distribution through a network of middlemen in Tokyo, Singapore and Mexico. IGI undercover operatives, posing as wholesale buyers and working through multiple foreign and domestic front companies set up for the purpose, communicated and met with the sellers in Asia to negotiate and make import purchases in six-figure dollar amounts. IGI then worked with the U.S. Customs Service to interdict and impound the counterfeit goods upon their arrival at U.S. ports and, at the client’s behest, briefed federal law enforcement authorities and provided them evidence and documentation collected in the course of our investigation.
- A large manufacturer of backpacks retained IGI to help address an increase of counterfeit products in the marketplace. After conferring with the client to understand the unique characteristics of their products, such as stitching and zippers, our investigators conducted a series of undercover purchases in strategic locations. We successfully purchased a number of counterfeit items from different locations. Through an analysis of the locations where our team purchased different counterfeit products, IGI was able to help the client identify where and how the counterfeits were inserted into the supply chain.
- A major pharmaceutical company received suspicious phone calls making inquiries about the status of regulatory approval of one of its drugs. Working with the company’s attorney, IGI’s investigation identified the source of the calls, confirmed that the caller was using a false identity and a false pretext for making the inquiries, and linked the caller to a competitive intelligence firm. Legal action against that firm ultimately led to identification of its customer, a competitor of our client, and a negotiated settlement.
- IGI was hired to gather evidence in a large patent infringement action before the International Trade Commission. IGI investigators contacted the infringing companies, who were based in China but shipping a food additive to the United States, in violation of our client’s patent. After lengthy dealings with the Chinese companies, IGI obtained samples of the food additive, as well as spec sheets of their ingredients. A strict chain of custody procedure was established, and the samples obtained by IGI were instrumental in helping prove the infringement before the ITC. In addition, IGI followed leads gleaned from packaging materials and from interviews of executives of the Chinese companies to determine identities of the U.S. players involved in the infringement. Our work helped lead to a favorable outcome for our client at the ITC.
- On multiple occasions, IGI has assisted a U.S. company defend its trademark from competitors. A company with a large U.S. footprint, IGI’s client is frequently the victim of efforts by smaller competitors who appropriate and otherwise misuse the client’s trademark in marketing and on the internet. When the client discovers new evidence or indicia of infringement, the client routinely turns to IGI researchers for “rapid response” investigative results. Our researchers quickly provide results of database and public records research on suspicious entities, phone numbers, IP addresses, domains, and individuals. In some instances, with the client’s approval IGI investigators have moved quickly to conduct interviews of individuals identified by the researchers. The client’s lawyers frequently incorporate and rely on our investigative work product in their court applications and filings.
- Various websites were selling our client’s product, in violation of licensing agreements and trademark laws. IGI conducted a multi-year investigation, developing undercover buyers across the country to order the product from the various websites. We were also instrumental in identifying new violating websites. IGI developed a strict chain of custody protocol and processed all shipments, according to the protocol. In the course of the investigation, IGI learned that many websites were also selling counterfeits of our client’s product, information that was turned over to federal authorities. The information developed by IGI resulted in shuttering of hundreds of offending websites. We also conducted an investigation of the individuals behind many of the websites, leading to the filing of multiple lawsuits against the perpetrators.
- A global pharmaceutical company retains IGI on an annual basis to assist the client in collecting on judgments entered against criminal defendants convicted of counterfeiting the client’s products. We typically begin with an initial look into the defendant and their relatives and known associates to assess the potential benefit of pursuing a specific judgment. We identify and trace assets and look for associations that may lead to additional assets. Depending on the results of our initial look, we may investigate specific areas in further detail, including through interviews and other methods of collecting human intelligence. We provide investigative results and guidance to assist the client in determining which judgments to pursue and how specific assets may be seized.
- IGI has developed strong capabilities in combating the theft of intellectual property and the illegal sale of clothing bearing counterfeit logos and trademarks. IGI investigated the theft of intellectual property from a sports franchise by another company. And current IGI personnel have led successful investigations into the mass production and sale of counterfeit clothing, including a criminal case against perpetrators replicating Nike shoes.