Students hear the truth about counterfeit goods

Nike, Adidas, Coach, Gucci and Disney.

All are brands idealized around the world; however, many people are unwilling or unable to pay the high cost of their products.

“Absolutely everything that has a brand [name] has a knock-off,” private investigator Mario Loaiza said. “You know about the tennis shoes, purses and jeans – but I’m also talking about brake pads, batteries, baby formula and medicine, too.”

He added that when medicines are counterfeited, people’s lives are put into danger, thus presenting a bigger problem as a whole.

Loaiza, a member of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, presented a lecture and movie premiere to about 40 students in the Whitten Learning Center on Nov. 8 as a part of the “Don’t Fake It” campaign.

The weeklong campaign was hosted by Donn Tilson, an associate professor of public relations, and his public relations campaigns class. The events included an anti-counterfeiting rally, a petition-signing session, raffles for designer items and T-shirt giveaways.

Tyler Sminkey, a senior and student in Tilson’s class, said Tilson leads a campaign every semester, and this year the IACC selected the University of Miami as one of about five schools across the U.S. to promote its cause. He added that the IACC gave each of the participating schools $10,000 to sponsor the campaign on-campus.

“It has been a very successful campaign so far,” Sminkey said. “We need to do a follow-up survey on campus, but we did give away everything that we ordered and spent our money on, so we have done well.”

Students also learned that the consequences of brand counterfeiting are felt everywhere.

“It’s a bit unrealistic to believe that students will stop buying counterfeit products, but the main goal was to spread awareness, and next time they’ll think twice about it,” junior Sophie Grainge said.

Loaiza said that American companies alone lose an estimated $20 billion annually from the sale of counterfeit products. This hurts the economy because counterfeiters do not pay the taxes that support public schools, libraries, hospitals, and other social programs.

“To make it very black and white, buying a counterfeit is wrong,” Loaiza said. “In fact, it’s stealing – stealing someone else’s intellectual property.”

He noted that consumers who purchase counterfeit goods are usually unaware of where their money really goes and that money spent on counterfeit products has been known to benefit terrorist activity and organized crime.

Loaiza described a case from last March involving 19 individuals who were indicted in Michigan for counterfeiting offenses. It was later discovered that a portion of the profits were used to fund Hezbollah, a radical Shiite Muslim organization in Lebanon engaged in guerrilla warfare against Israel.

“The problem with buying counterfeits is not just that you support things you’d never knowingly support, it’s also that you hurt yourself,” Loaiza said.

“You risk personal harm, you contribute to job loss, you divert money that could have supported social programs and you hurt the companies that innovate to make better products to improve your quality of life.”

Linnie Supall may be contacted at