Fake Indigenous Australian artworks openly for sale

Indigenous Australians [also known as `Aboriginals’] settled in Australia over 50,000 years ago [some estimates say possibly 100,000 years ago] and created their own cultures that have unique aspects not found elsewhere on earth, such as the boomerang and `dingo’ dogs.

Indigenous Australians across Australia have different languages and varied languages and customs –they also have unique artworks which reflect the different landscapes and topography of the country. Indigenous Australians art is highly distinctive and creative and once you see the styles you quickly identify with them; the exceptional wildlife of Australia – from wombats to echidnas – often feature in the art works.

Australian Traditional Indigenous art includes Rock painting, Wood carvings (Punu), weaving and paintings featuring symbols, cultural aspects and religious influences. Indigenous Australian artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Gloria Tamerre Petyarre have achieved worldwide fame for their artworks and collectors will pay millions of dollars to have an original work by these top artists.

However, recent surveys have found that around 80 per cent of these ‘Aboriginal art’ products marketed to tourists are thought to be fakes, made by either non-Indigenous Australians or else imported from overseas.

Sadly, it appears that many tourists are not overly bothered with the idea of non-Indigenous people creating Indigenous styled art to pass off as legitimate – fakes that compromise Intellectual Property.

As some tourist markets attract international tourists, it’s easy for some people to sell fakes to people that don’t know much about Aboriginal art.

What is the current situation?
According to the Arts Law Centre of Australia, it is estimated that around 80 per cent of the pieces marketed to tourists in shops are inauthentic. The Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) states that fake art is now affecting the legitimate Aboriginal art market.

The problem has become so large that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking legal action against a company it claims made misleading representations about Aboriginal people making its’ products; when the products were made and imported from Indonesia.

Spotting suspect fake artworks
Advice from the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists suggest the following methods to spot a fake:

• Look out for conflicting styles on the same piece
• For example, the x-ray styles of Arnhem Land with the heavy line work of the Kimberley included on the same item
• Varnish on wooden pieces indicates that they are not authentic art works
• Use of glossy paints with very bright contrasting colours

How to fix this Intellectual Property problem?

• Introducing a certification scheme by the commonwealth government so people know they’re buying legitimate works
• Enhanced protection for Indigenous intellectual property
• More legal help for artists who are worried their work has been copied without consent
• Proper labelling requirements for souvenirs sold in Australia

see http://ankaaa.org.au/publication/purchasing-aboriginal-art-ethical-buying-guide/ for further information.


Issues with Listening Devices – aka `bugs’

Technical Surveillance is the security industry term for that laypeople would normally call a `bug’ – essentially a listening device that can be placed inside an office, vehicle, room etc. The Technical Surveillance device can then record conversations or else capture images of the people inside the office or room. Technical Surveillance device can have the ability to record the sound or vision in situ, whilst others can broadcast the data via cable or wireless to a separate recording device.

Though so much personal and corporate data is now stored digitally on computers and mobile phones [which may fall prey to cyber hackers], conversations between executives or activity which is sensitive are still vulnerable to be compromised by an outside party and utilised for corporate espionage, fraud / theft, extortion or even public humiliation of an individual.

With the internet offering a free and nearly anonymous broadcast system; sensitive conversations or images belonging to an organisation can be disseminated across the globe and be impossible to remove or take down. An example would be images of a female changing room at a store or business – outraging the modesty of the victim and tarnishing the reputation of the company.

Most people generally view Technical Surveillance as the stuff of spy movies or a John Grisham book, where the agent is dressed in black and installs a listening device under the desk or a video camera in a picture frame. Not only does this make the movie more exciting, it does demonstrate that placing a Technical Surveillance can be fairly easy.

Another misapprehension is that Technical Surveillance is too expensive or complex to be considered by a competitor to make the threat real. Obtaining covert listening devices has never been easier – a simple search on Google or eBay will display devices that are under $100 and which can be deployed by an amateur. With the advent of legitimate electronic devices such as phone chargers, power packs etc being placed in office locations by employees, it is easy to overlook that an outsider has placed a voice-activated listening device inside the room.

There are many reasons why a Technical Surveillance listening device might be used against a company or other entity. The most common objective is with obtaining confidential, proprietary and dynamic information for competitive advantage. Such information provides insights into likely company performance, new products or services and marketing strategies – all hugely useful to a competitor.

Mergers and acquisition information, financial details and market expansion plans are also strongly desired by outsiders. Board meetings, discussions in executive offices and finance department information are often targeted using Technical Surveillance devices.

An unsavoury development of the use of these devices is that covert video cameras have been placed by perverts in common areas such as washrooms, showers or changing rooms to video people in a state of undress. Though the intent is not espionage, the effects on the victim and organisation are devastating. Some shopping malls and major retailers have taken steps to make regular checks for any covert video cameras and report to Police any suspect devices.

South Korea has experienced a serious issue whereby hidden cameras have been secreted in locations including public bathrooms, swimming pools, changing rooms etc to record offensive images of women. These images are later uploaded to internet websites for voyeurs to watch. The problem has gotten so bad that Seoul city government has created a team of fifty marshals to inspect bathrooms, changing rooms etc around the city with equipment to spot any concealed cameras.

Recent developments in the availability of cheap, small, & disposable listening devices has created another opportunity for a hostile party to covertly monitor your business environment. These disposable listening devices run on low power and have plug-in peripherals such as cameras & microphones with large SD card storage – so they can save data on the SD cards for physical collection later, they possess the best traits of a non-radio frequency emitting device to make detection even harder.

Just as cyber criminals pose a threat to a company by probing for holes in computer security systems, companies need to be aware that Technical Surveillance listening devices can pose an immediate threat – from the eavesdropping of executive meetings through to voyeur images of a changing or bathroom in a store, hotel, office or club. Prevention is better than cure and every company should be assessing such a threat and the harm they can cause.

Mobile Phone Thefts

Ever since mobile phones became an essential tool for businesspeople, their theft and resale has posed a security problem for companies. The latest smart phones are not only costly, they can also contain crucial data relating to the company and the personnel working there.

Other than taking the obvious security steps such as not leaving a phone on the table or checking pockets for the mobile phone on exiting taxi [a common way to lose a phone], there a number of technical actions that can be taken:

1.    Ensure that the phone has a security PIN plus a locked SIM
2.    Install tracking software that can be activated remotely should the phone go missing
3.    Have all data backed up to the cloud
4.    Where possible, have critical data encrypted

Once one of your personnel discovers that a mobile phone has been stolen or gone missing, have your IT people start to track the phone using the installed software. Alert the telecom provider so that the phone can be deactivated and prevented from making costly calls or downloads – often the telecom provider can locate the phone quicker. If you suspect that the phone has been stolen, make a Police report so that they can identify the thief with the help of the tracking process.

It should be noted that to counter thefts of mobile phones and their reuse / sale, some telecom providers have now created a registry of reported missing or stolen phones via the serial number or IMEI embedded in the phone. Therefore, should a missing or stolen mobile phone be placed on such a register, a telecom provider checking this phone before signing up a new client would flag this problem.

This cooperation between telecom providers in the USA has made it much harder, if not impossible, to reactivate a flagged phone. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: the database only applies to the USA and other countries are slow on implementing a similar program.

This means that for those phone owners living outside the USA, there is little protection with recovering or cancelling their missing phones. And savvy iPhone thieves have realized that the way to get around these restrictions is by selling phones overseas.

There is already a steady trade of second hand mobile phones being traded in when users want a new phone. These old phones may then be reconditioned and shipped overseas where customers will buy them at a discounted price. Some dishonest players use these channels to sell found or stolen phones for instant cash.

Whether the phone was lost by accident or stolen by a thief, the process of re-sale and use by a third party exposes the data on your missing or stolen mobile phone to being downloaded and used as part of an identity theft attack. A locked and secure mobile phone is essential – make sure you have a six figure PIN installed.

This is a threat that will only increase as we store more and more data on our mobile phones. To give some idea on the scale of the problem today; take note that in the USA it is estimated that the loss and theft of mobile phones cost consumers over $30 billion in 2012, while around 110 smartphones are said to be lost or stolen each minute in the USA.

Now, where did I put my phone……..

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with theft or IT security issues? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once. Visit our Fraud Investigations webpage for more information.

Fake iPhones for sale

Mobile phone manufacturers have struggled for years to combat the problems of counterfeit batteries and phone accessories being sold in city markets and dubious phone stores.  Asia and the Middle East have been a battleground as phone manufacturers sought to stop fake batteries, ear-phones, cases etc being sold with impunity.

However, now the problems have gotten far worse; whole fake phones are being made with substandard operating software. Earlier this year, an associate returned from China with a cheap phone which he claimed was a bargain. After a few weeks the phone was malfunctioning and on closer inspection the label indicated it was a `Blueberry’ phone, not the Blackberry he thought it was.

Now whole phones are being copied illegally and sold as the genuine product. As per usual, the epicentre of this fake trade has been in China. The confluence of lax enforcement of IP [Intellectual Property] rights, a hungry demand from consumers for the latest products at a very low price and the technological ability to make these products has meant that it is now possible to buy an entire fake iPhone or Blackberry in China.

Recent news reports indicated that online sites in China were listing the fake iPhone 5 for as low as 200 Yuan or about US$33. A stunning offer considering Apple has yet to officially launch the genuine version of the phone.  Some of the phones on offer use names like “HiPhone 5” or “iiPhone 5” in a thinly veiled attempt to avoid prosecution for trademark violations. However, images of the devices show the Apple logo and they have the shape and finish to look just like an iPhone.

After finding success in selling these phones in Asia and the Middle East,  these counterfeit products have begun to show up for sale in the US and Europe. Some anti-counterfeiting experts estimate that up to 10 percent of technology products sold worldwide, or roughly $100 billion worth of technology product transactions each year, are for counterfeit or fake products.

In the US & Europe, these products are often sold on the web by small to medium sized traders via online marketplaces, like eBay or Craigslist. This is known as the `secondary market’ where manufacturers and large scale distributors can offload mobile phones which may not be popular or out of date at a cheaper price without affecting their main markets. But this sales tactic can be exploited by those selling counterfeit phones as consumers are duped into believing that they are legitimate products.

How to spot whether that is a fake iPhone or Blackberry
If you are searching on the web for a new phone or else travelling and spy what seems to be a great deal, here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of these fake vendors:

Is the price too good to be true?
As mentioned above, genuine Resellers offer bargains on the phone models that didn’t sell very well or else are out of date. A genuine reseller will be unable to offer significant discounts on new devices that are in high demand or have just been released.

A suggestion is to check prices online from a variety of sources to get an idea what the general going rate is. If you see a price that’s too low, then that’s a red flag that it’s likely a fake.

Unit numbers for sale
Does the reseller claim to have an unusually high number of units of the same device to sell? Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are adept at controlling their sales channels. This means that retailers are unlikely to have large excess inventory to offer to resellers. Therefore it’s unlikely that a reseller on eBay or Craigslist would be in a position to offer more than a few of the latest phones on the market.

Does the device look real?
This might be tricky for online shoppers looking for the iPhone 4S, since it looks just like the iPhone 4. But when you look at the pictures and the product descriptions, you should know which features are supposed to be available and which are not. And if the advertisement lists features that aren’t on the official spec sheet for the device, it’s probably not legitimate.

Does the seller offer a viable return policy?
If not, then be very worried. Do some research to check what has been the experience of other buyers from the vendor and weigh up whether they are legitimate.

Does it have a warranty?
In addition to the manufacturers 12 month warranty, many authorized resellers also offer their own versions of extended warranties. A reseller that doesn’t offer such warranties may be selling fakes.

Should you be in a store and in the position to handle the iPhone, try out the following:

Test the touch screen
Genuine iPhone touch screens react only to objects that conduct electricity (i.e. your fingers). Authentic iPhones screens will not work with plastic or metal styluses. A good test to try early on

SIM Card slot
Any version of the iPhone has only one SIM card slot. If there’s more than one slot, then that’s all you need to know.

The iPhone is sealed so that batteries can only be changed by opening up the whole phone, preferably by your local Apple store. If the phone has the ability to change the battery or else the box comes with a spare battery, then keep on walking

If the iPhone comes in any other colour except black or white then it’s a fake.

Start Up mode
When you press the “on” button, a genuine iPhone will display a black background with a silver border and four rows of icons. Many fakes will have more icons on display or a different coloured background. If you have a friend who’s familiar with the model, ask them to handle the phone and see how it feels

Better safe than sorry, iPhones are a big purchase item and you need to be sure you’re getting the genuine product

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

Counterfeit eggs? Faberge eggs that is

We are all familiar with the news that products are counterfeited by gangs around the world; clothes, perfumes, DVDs and pharmaceuticals are the most common targets. However, recent seizures in France indicate that an enterprising group has been busy counterfeiting Faberge eggs.

Faberge eggs were made by artisan jeweler Peter Carl Faberge containing jewels, enamel and precious metals at the behest of Russian Emperors Alexander III and Nicolas II. The Faberge eggs were given to the wives of the Emperors as presents for Easter. Each egg was individual and the product of years of craftsmanship.

According to Faberge, there are only forty two genuine eggs in existence today. So in December 2010, it was skeptical French customs officers who examined a consignment of 354 supposedly Faberge eggs being imported from Russia. Though the eggs appeared to be of good quality and had a stamp on the boxes showing a two-headed eagle, the symbol of the imperial crown of Russia, it was hard to believe that the eggs were genuine.

It is believed that the eggs were intended for sale in the markets and stores of Paris either as an alternative item for small time collectors or else trying to pass off as the genuine article. Faberge produced many other previous items such as trinkets, picture frames and medallions which are often counterfeited and sold to unsuspecting members of the public [see the site KFaberge].

In 2000, a Faberge aficionado found that his ‘£10m egg’ was actually a fake after he lent it to a museum and it sustained some damage. The egg was in fact a copy, worth around £100,000, roughly twice its original price at auction. The collector bought the copy the egg at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva in 1991for just £52,000, apparently unaware at what a bargain he was getting if his egg was real.

Counterfeiting of branded items is considered a growing threat to European manufacturers who justify their higher prices by the investment in the brand. Officials report that Internet commerce has boosted counterfeiting as buyers are willing to shop around for an alternative to the high street stores. French customs officials have revealed from their records that in 1994 only 200,000 counterfeit articles were seized compared to over 7 million items seized in 2009.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

What’s in a Mc Name – McCurry?

McDonald’s may be the preeminent name in fast-food but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can claim to possess the `Mc’ prefix for the name of any restaurants. Not in Malaysia, anyway.

McDonald’s in Malaysia waged an eight year legal battle against food outlet minnow McCurry. McDonald’s appeared to have the cards stacked in its favour; part of the global fast-food conglomerate with over 180 restaurants across Malaysia and all the trademarks filed and sealed many years ago.

McCurry, by contrast, was a single restaurant which has sold local Malaysian delicacies such as fish head curry, roti chanai and murtabak since 1999.

McDonald’s claimed the McCurry name of the restaurant breached the fast food giant’s trademark. However, the proprietors of McCurry riposted that the name was short for “Malaysian Chicken Curry,” as per the information on the company website (www.mccurryrecipe.com). They added that their logo did not resemble that of the burger chain and was not intended to play off the more famous name.

McDonald’s won their lawsuit in 2006 after a local court found in their favour. However, McCurry appealed this decision and recently an appeals court overruled the decision that McDonald’s trademark had been infringed.

The Federal Court ruled that McDonald’s did not have exclusive rights to use the prefix ‘Mc’. The court found that McDonald’s could not presume to have a monopoly in the use of the term ‘Mc’ on a signage or in the conduct of food business.

The proprietors of McCurry have now announced that they have planned to expand and open restaurants in other locations– isn’t that how McDonald’s got started?

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

German firms ban FaceBook at work

A number of top German companies are uniting to ban social networking sites FaceBook and Twitter from the work space. The ban has been driven by fears of industrial espionage and the threat of competitors obtaining company information via the internet links.

The German firms include VW and Porsche, leaders in research and development in the motor industry, who have poured millions into improving manufacturing techniques and better materials. The firms are concerned that they may lose their technological edge – plus the time and millions of Euros – to overseas competitors.

Recent security reviews have indicated that the social networking sites are potential leakage points for company information and Intellectual Property. As improved email filters and patches for web browsers are implemented, hackers must look for other gateways to snatch snippets of information that can build up a profile to either mount an identity theft assault or else construct a network map of the system.

Often, hackers are seeking to exploit security failures within the social networking formats to access restricted information. By hijacking accounts they can seek to unleash Trojans on other computers and download useful information.

Another reason for viewing social networking sites as weak points in the security shield of a network is that employees can inadvertently disclose information which may be of use to an outsider. Mentioning product launch dates, test areas or product names can all be pieced together by an entity using competitive intelligence and create a portrait of which direction the company is moving.

And besides, German bosses didn’t like the idea of their workers slacking on the job and watching YouTube or updating FaceBook.

But this can cut both ways. In August a law was proposed which would restrict employers from trawling information on prospective job candidates from their postings on social networking sites to protect the privacy of the employee.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing information loss? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.


In Malaysia – About to make it a crime to buy pirated DVD movies?

The Malaysian consumer public has been shocked by the announcement by the Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry that they intend to penalize those who buy counterfeit DVDs and VCDs. The Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry has indicated that in order to combat the rampant sale of pirated DVDs and VCDs, they need to staunch the demand and that can be done by punishing those that buy the products.

The Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry (known as Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri Dan Hal Ehwal Pengguna in Malay) exists to encourage ethical trade practices and to protect consumer interest. The ministry’s functions include managing matters related to consumer protection and intellectual property rights.

Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said recently that buyers of counterfeit DVDs and VCDs could be fined up to five times the retail price of the genuine products for each counterfeit item they had in their possession. The change in approach would come into effect once the proposed amendments of the Copyright Act were approved by Parliament.

Detractors of the plan suggested that resorting to penalising the consumer might be a sign of desperation by the ministry, which had failed to counteract the pirating syndicates in the past. Malaysia has had a history of criminal syndicates engaging in large scale counterfeiting of movies and music discs as well as computer software. Much of this product was sold across the region and even exported to USA and Europe.

However, many consumers felt that this approach was unfair and punishing consumers was the wrong path to take. Some said that the price of genuine DVDs and VCDs was too high and they resorted to buying counterfeit copies instead. They urged the music and movie industries and government to work to reduce the retail prices to lessen the demand for fakes. Also, they reasoned, if the Ministry was able to catch a consumer who had bought some DVDs, then why couldn’t they catch the vendor at the same time?

But some agreed with the idea – after all, they thought, buyers of illegal drugs are punished so why not for DVDs as well?

As Intellectual Property rights become more important as an asset to a company, the Intellectual Property holders will demand via their associations and governments for more protection to stop counterfeiting.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.