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INTA’s Unreal campaign challenges teens

“Who has downloaded music?” asked Christopher Robertson of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “I promise I’m not going to take any names.” At this, nearly everyone raised a hand. The better question, perhaps, was who hadn’t illegally downloaded music.

At a session yesterday on anticounterfeiting, Robertson was speaking to a group of students from D.C. area high schools about the risks associated with purchasing fake goods. Few people, he told them, think about the direct consequences of illegal downloading but it is not a victimless crime.

The talk was part of INTA’s Unreal campaign, an effort aimed at educating teens about trademarks and counterfeiting. Yesterday’s launch was the culmination of months of research with AMP Agency, a marketing firm that specializes in targeting teens. Together, they held focus groups and invited teens from major U.S. cities to join a private social network to complete assignments and questionnaires.

“These are the folks that are obviously the next generation of purchasers,” said INTA President Gregg Marrazzo of Estee Lauder. “Even now they have significant purchasing power.” Recognizing that teens today rely heavily on social networks to communicate (“I’ve been told that email is so yesterday,” said Marrazzo), the Unreal campaign has a Facebook and Twitter account.

During the session, Ayala Deutsch, of NBA, flashed photos of two seemingly authentic LeBron James jerseys. “I’ve been with the NBA 15 years, and counterfeiters are getting better,” she told them.

Perhaps nothing elicited as much horror from the students as when Richard Halverson, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke. He told them of cough syrup created with an ingredient used in antifreeze, and showed videos of a counterfeit computer battery bursting into flames. “They will counterfeit anything, and it can all be very dangerous,” Halverson said.

The program concluded with a tour of the INTA Anticounterfeiting booth at the Exhibition Hall. There, pairs of Ugg boots, basketball jerseys, perfume and jeans lay next to each other. The students were asked to detect the real from the fake, which at times required close inspection. They peered at two boxes of BOSE earphones, the fake only distinguishable by a stray capitalized letter or two. “I think most trademark owners are coming to realize the importance of awareness-raising as part of our counterfeiting strategy,” said BOSE trademark counsel Michelle Brownlee.

With much of the campaign focusing on the next generation, a potential future IP enforcement investigator was in attendance. Alliyah Berger, 17, of Archbishop Carroll High School, said she’s taking a class on law and social justice. A basketball player bound for Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, Berger said she warns her friends against buying counterfeit sneakers. Ultimately, she’s thinking of a career in IP enforcement. “I like the subject—how our rights aren’t protected as much as you think they are,” she said.

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