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2010 Games brand protected like Nike's, Versace's: VANOC

2010 Games organizers are collaborating with Canadian law enforcement and anti-counterfeiting experts to protect the Olympic brand.

Companies such as Nike or Versace often take similar steps, a VANOC official told reporters today.

With the Winter Games approaching, there’s been an “upswing” in counterfeit merchandise across the country, said Bill Cooper, director of commercial rights management for the Vancouver organizing committee.

“We’re seeing a growing number of cases,” he said. “It’s happening in significant numbers, it’s happening in great variety.”

Games organizers have recorded over 1500 brand violations to date, many related to counterfeit goods.

Retail sales of branded t-shirts, mugs, stuffed toys and even maple syrup are expected to exceed $500 million – a vital revenue source for cash-strapped VANOC.

Games organizers have teamed with Kestenberg Siegal Lipkus LLP, a firm specializing in anti-counterfeiting investigations, since 2007. VANOC also collaborates with the RCMP, Vancouver police and the Canada Border Services Agency to clamp down on unauthorized merchandise.

Cooper said the arrangement is nothing special.

“Law enforcement obviously services a wide variety of rights holders and we are just one,” he said.

Asked how much VANOC spends to fight counterfeiting, Cooper said it’s hard to pin down an actual figure when so many players are involved.

“We share services,” he explained. “Typically how the industry works is you have investigative teams that are concurrently working with us, VANOC, but other right holders like Hockey Canada or Nike or Gucci or Versace.”

Olympics organizers have tried to be as helpful as they can. They’ve provided a manual to law enforcement agencies that describes the complex security measures used to separate official goods from the fakes.

For example, each piece of apparel comes attached to a special hangtag. On it, a small hologram filled with seven layers of cryptic security devices and a serial number.

Cooper said VANOC has more at stake than money when counterfeit goods hit the market. There’s legal obligations to the International Olympics Committee and the embarrassment of eroding a globally recognized logo.

“In layman’s terms,” Cooper said, “it’s about returning the brand in better shape than when we got it.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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