Today’s Opinion: Counterfeit products

POSTED: 04/8/11 12:01 PM

Counterfeit products might soon be items hard to come by in St. Maarten. Yesterday local merchants saw a whole bunch of counterfeit Rolexes and other “expensive” watches crushed in a press on the yard of MNO Vervat on Arch Road. Not too long ago, market vendors in Philipsburg received a court summons that orders them to stop selling counterfeit Hard Rock Café merchandise.

For years, retailers have had the run of the place, selling anything and everything they wanted. In some window displays store owners even dared to advertise that they were selling imitation goodies.

But those days of product piracy seems to be coming to an end, and a systematic crackdown on counterfeit merchandise is underway. Market vendors have complained that the authorities should not go after the “little man”, but that they should go after the producers of counterfeit merchandise.

That sounds almost like an argument one could sympathize with. But that would be wrong.

The other day, prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp pointed out in the Court in First Instance what the problem is with fencing stolen goods. Without fences, there is no market. If burglars steal a flat screen TV and there is nobody who wants to buy it, they may as well start looking for an honest job, because the simple truth is that one cannot eat or drink flat screen TVs.

Is there a difference between a stolen TV that a burglar desperate for money wants to sell on the black market and a retailer that sells fake Rolexes, fake Hard Rock Café tee shirts, or counterfeit Lacoste polo shirts?

Not at all.

Vendors and retailers who buy this merchandise know that they’re not dealing with the real thing, simply because the products are way too cheap. In other words, they know that they are buying counterfeit products, and they must be aware by now that producers of these products are stealing from the owner of the brand.

At the end of the line are the customers who buy counterfeit stuff.  They too are guilty of fencing. Real Rolexes are not on the market for $150, or whatever the price is retailers ask for a fake watch. The real thing costs anywhere between $8,000 and $30,000. A classic Lacoste polo shirt costs between $45,50 and $80, so anyone who buys one for ten bucks is doing something illegal.

We have thought for a while that retailers and market vendors are maybe not fully aware of the concept of copyright, but we think now that we were wrong. These merchants understand the concept all too well.

We hear that, when inspection teams turn up the heat, counterfeit merchandise is quickly taken off the shelves and shipped to surrounding islands with a more liberal approach.

That begs of course a couple of questions. Is there no control on goods that are shipped to and from the island? Nothing seems easier than checking containers upon arrival, especially when they contain clothing coming from exotic places like China, because that’s the counterfeit capital of the world. And nothing seems easier than opening a couple of boxes when merchants send their stuff to other islands.

It is clear that these controls are not happening – or at least they are not happening often enough, otherwise our stores would not be stuffed with counterfeit products.

The urge to go for counterfeit stuff instead of bringing something original is rooted in people’s lack of imagination. It is easier to steal the good work of others than to come up with something truly original. Retailers ought to make a better effort to stock their shelves with original products.

We cannot help but think about the unforgettable expression DP parliamentarian Leroy de Weever once attributed to Chinese businessmen in an Island Council meeting: “Cheap no good, good no cheap.”

That’s something to think about for all those retailers and vendors whose merchandise is currently under intense scrutiny. They cannot maintain that it is all the fault of the producers, because they are the ones willing to put counterfeits on their shelves.


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Comments (1)


  1. Andy Croxall says:

    As long as people in St.Maarten are looking into counterfeit things I suggest you investigate the Masters Degree being claimed by your Prime Minster. She claims to have a Master’s in Public Administration, suma cum laude from La Salle University.

    If you look at the website of La Salle University that lists the Master’s Degrees that they offer here: you will see they do not offer a Master’s in Public Administration.

    The misspelled honors claimed by the Prime Minister were copied directly from the St.Maarten Government’s website. Summa is correctly spelled with two M’s not one and no, it was not just a typo, she spelled it the same way in her campaign literature.

    It would seem to me this should be more important to the people of St.Maarten
    than some knock off Rolexes.