MemberNovember 22, 2019 at 10:43 pm
A PRINTER was caught red-handed producing counterfeit labels for bottles of a well-known fabric softener when trading standards officials walked in, a court heard.
Acting on a tip-off, consumer protection officers from Bolton Council raided Hot Print Design, on Kenyon Business Park, and found machines reeling off bogus stickers for the Comfort range, borough magistrates were told.
And when a search was conducted of the premises, off Pilkington Street, up to 1,900 such labels were recovered, which household goods giant Unilever later confirmed were fake, the court heard.
Questioned in an interview, Top Print director Mohammed Faruk Ugharadar said he had been asked to carry out the £360 job by a man he could name only as ‘John’.
Ugharadar, 45, of Allendale Gardens, Bolton, pleaded guilty to four offences of applying a material bearing a false trademark and to four identical charges on behalf of Hot Print.
The court heard 500 counterfeit labels each had been printed for Comfort’s Sunshiny Freshness, Pure and Lily and Riceflower ranges, and 400 for their Sunshiny Days line.
Adam Lodge, prosecuting, said the defendant was not present when trading standards officials visited Hot Print in August 2018 but they were allowed entry by two females working there.
Mr Lodge added: "On searching the premises they discovered a large printer, which was printing off yellow Comfort labels."
Further checks of a nearby area then uncovered hundreds of labels for the other lines, the court was told.
Interviewed about the labels, Ugharadar, who had no previous convictions, said he would have checked any paperwork with the purchaser before they handed the labels over.
Mr Lodge said Unilever was concerned of the damage to their reputation by the sale of counterfeit goods, pretending to be Comfort products, which did not meet their high-quality control standards.
He told the court it was accepted though that the defendant did not have any links to the bottling and sale of the fabric softener.
Ugharadar said: "This gentleman came to my office, and I knew the Asian man who was with him, and I thought that this was genuine."
He told the court he had printed leaflets for local Subway and Euro Garages franchises and thought the man who had come to him with the Comfort labels had a similar arrangement with them.
The defendant and the company will be sentenced after the completion of pre-sentence reports.
MemberNovember 24, 2019 at 8:37 pm
This raises an interesting point. Who is it that is commiting the crime here? The printer who may (or may not) be aware that the labels he is printing are to be used on counterfeit goods, or the people who commissioned him to print the labels?
Come to that – Is it the printers responsibility to police the end use of his products?
As sign businesses we are already unpaid tax collectors for the government – are we also to become unpaid trading standards officers?
This is not as daft an idea as it may seem. For instance, how many sign businesses check the credentials of the tradesman that asks for copies of trade bodies (eg. Corgi, FSB, Trusted trader etc.) logos to be incorporated into his van livery? And if we don’t is it our responsibility to check?
Similarly – when designing and applying a van livery for a tradesman – what if he is a bogus tradesman going around knocking on doors of vulnerable householders offering to fix their roof and using the signwritten van as a way of appearing legitimate. Is it our responsibility to check the intended use of the vehicle (I have in the past made up excuses – I’m too busy, can’t do it until next month at the earliest – to get rid of what I suspected was a bogus tradesman)?
I have also printed labels (commisioned via a respected design agency) for limited edition whiskys. It never occured to me that they may be used for counterfeit goods. AmI being naive in not checking? Or is it simply not my responsibility?
I think if I was on the jury for this case I would be finding him not guilty…
MemberNovember 24, 2019 at 9:40 pm
I think we should be smart enough to distinguish the difference between Mr Asian from the shed round the corner asking for brand name labels, and a corporate body / sub contractor… much the same as we can usually recognise a genuine enquiry for a job from a scam request.
Though I get your point Phill.
10+ yrs ago I was asked (face to face) if I’d supply many 1000’s of labels for Smirnoff, grey goose and other vodkas… I knew it was iffy and used the excuse that I’d need a £15k printer to do that, “no problem” he says “how to we buy one for you”,
I wriggled out of it with no hard feelings hit someone local must have taken that gig!!
MemberNovember 25, 2019 at 9:37 am
I’m with Phil on this – What crime has been committed?
Sure it sounds suspect, but how was he/us to know what they were being used for?
What’s to say the customer isn’t purchasing the goods in bulk, decanting into smaller containers? Is it ‘counterfeit’?
It’s common practice in the pharmaceutical industry to import medication, repackage it for the UK market, admittedly with the trademark holders permission, or at least an attempt to obtain permission.
MemberNovember 25, 2019 at 7:02 pm
I would think that if in the unlikely event that a large corporation such as Unilever were to require the services of a small print company, it wouldn’t be through a bloke called ‘John’ . There would be all sorts of red tape & non disclosure agreements before anything went forward towards an actual print run. It is fairly obvious that this guy knew he was involved in a very shady job & didn’t mind at all as he was being paid. If you feel that the enquiry is a bit iffy then get it in writing from the company placing the order that you have express permission to print the job & I would think any right minded judge would find you blameless
MemberNovember 25, 2019 at 10:54 pm
Fair point Kevin, but the point I was trying to make was where do we draw the line. Do we ask for proof everytime the customer asks for a corgi logo or trusted trader logo to be included in his van livery? Is it our responsibility to police the end user of the signs we make?
MemberNovember 26, 2019 at 2:02 am
Big corporate stuff….whenever I’ve done it, the original enquiry might be low key…couple of dozen special stickers or "can you replicate this?"
At one time or another I’ve done / still do replicas and specials for Tesco & Burger King.
.just local managers at first…or at least they SAY they are (OK they were what they said…then regional and national roll outs). Not always obvious either where confirmed emails are from as trading names vary wildly from marketing and corporate names.
Yeh, this guy probably knew it was all dodgy, proving that is another thing.
MemberNovember 26, 2019 at 6:51 amquote Phill Fenton:
I don’t think it’s possible for us to police this kind of thing Phill, my opinion for what its worth is that if a client tells you he is gas safe registered then it is his responsibility, if it transpires that he is not, that’s a matter for the authorities as he is passing himself off as something he is not. The second the artwork is approved, it’s on him, no idea whether a judge would agree with me but it seems the fairest outcome.
We all have print ready files of gas safe & NIC logos to hand but I was recently asked for trade logos of one I’d never heard of. The client provided very poor quality jpg files & said that was the best he had. I contacted the governing body of this organisation & they were very helpful & agreed to provide the logos. Took 3 weeks before they arrived. I’d redrawn them, printed, laminated & applied them in 3 days. All of us are master forgers but we aren’t the ones passing the client off as a qualified tradesman.
MemberNovember 26, 2019 at 10:27 am
Well ignorance of the law probably wouldn’t stand up as a very good first excuse and what about common sense? If someone walks in off the street, without prior arrangement no full name or contact details, and asks for 500 labels for a national brand wouldn’t that you make you think?
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 2:19 pm
But what if you’re not aware of the job yourself and an employee carries it out for you? If you’re a small operation, chances are you’ll see every job that comes over your desk, by the time you have a handful of employees trained up to do the work so you don’t oversee everything – what happens then? You may even be away and an employee undertakes the job.
I do agree that common sense in these issues should prevail, experience tells me it doesn’t always. Employees don’t often think too deeply about what they’re doing, they certainly don’t ask the same questions as the owner would.
I do think Phill has a point in principle, that it’s a dangerous precedent to set. Fair enough if the guy printing the labels is the guy selling the dodgy goods, but when the printer is a third party with no knowledge of that, it becomes a bit of a talking point.
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 2:40 pm
Punishment 120 hrs of unpaid work, and £85 victim surcharge :awkward:
https://www.printweek.com/print-week/ne … t-printing
I’d have thought it would have been more beneficial for TS to let the labels get to the customer, and find out who is distributing the knock off goods, and disrupt that operation.
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 3:09 pm
"I’d have thought it would have been more beneficial for TS to let the labels get to the customer, and find out who is distributing the knock off goods, and disrupt that operation."
Looking in the phone book for ‘John’ :smiles:
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 3:42 pmquote Steve Morgan:
I see where you’re coming from – you think maybe "John" doesn’t exist and is perhaps just an Alibi for our entrepreneurial printer :awkward:
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 6:02 pm
This sort of thing is a minefield for the signmaker. How many of us have been asked to reproduce a brand sticker for a friend who is renovating a 1960’s Ever Ready torch, or some ancient 1940’s bike sticker (or whatever) etc?
Or what about a customer who legitimately sells branded products, but boxes of their items have arrived without labels (most unlikely, but still not impossible)?
I was asked to produce some signage for a local garage. They wanted various logos; BMW, Mini, Jaguar and so on. Basically, the range of vehicles they serviced and worked on. I said that, technically, they needed the permission of the various logo owners to display them at their garage. They just said it would be okay and so I made the signs for them. Seven days after putting them up, they were made to remove them by local trading standards.
Now, am I at fault for making the signs, or okay because I forewarned them that they needed permission? I understand I would be breaking trademark/copyright laws if I advertised that I made these and sold them. But if I sold someone a knife and told them they shouldn’t stab anyone with it, am I then liable in some way if they do? I actually think the answer to this is ‘yes’, I am liable (making the sign, not selling the knife). But I don’t think it’s fair to us in the business that we are in.
Providing tools (or in our case stickers, signs) that someone can then go on to commit a crime with isn’t our responsibility. If it was, B&Q would be in court all of the time. The use, or misuse, of supplied goods should be the sole responsibility of the person(s) using them, not the supplier.
Obviously, in some instances, it is glaringly obvious that something dodgy is going on. But not always.
Ultimately, to the finest letter of the law, if we don’t actually have written permission of the owner of any trademark or copyrighted image/phrase/word/name, we shouldn’t produce it for anyone. But can we all say that we never have?
MemberNovember 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm
It’s a tough old game.
I think if it’s not stinking fishy then it’s fair game in many ways. We all Got to eat. If someone came in and asked me for 500 comfort labels I would be lifting my eyebrows.
We get “local” bands in for merch every other day. Can’t say I look any of them up and also can’t say am up to date with the latest young acts coming up through the ranks. So maybe am guilty already.
I agree though. Unless it’s like the case where it’s incredibly obvious or someone looking to have a full police livery on there 2002 Ford Fiesta (saw a Facebook clip on a fake ambulance recently, looked fairly accurate on the signwriting) it shouldn’t be us taking the hit in anyway. We’ve effectively been scammed as well.
MemberDecember 10, 2019 at 11:13 am
Interesting topic. I have a disclaimer form for producing clients artwork, I came to this a few years back as a lot of the Shutterstock/ Stock Galleries have different levels of purchase for different coverage. I also have printed Virgin Logos for a third party, Subway, Car Dealer Logos, Football Club stuff. So to cover me I have a form they must supply the protected components and must sign that they have permission and rights to use the artwork. I then feel that I have "Done my duty". In relation to Gas Safe Logos I just run them, you can buy them on eBay for 50p. If they want to include a registration number then I may check if I remember, have the time or have cause for concern. This could be took further in the respect of If we brand a business and use our skills to make the business’s prospective clients believe it is professional (It may well be?) Then are we Morally wrong? Take Aesthetics which is big business, chances are a young beauty therapist is jabbing needles in someones face and they chose that establishment because the sign was attractive? Maybe I am going to far!
MemberDecember 10, 2019 at 1:57 pm
If I was setting to print dodgy labels, I’m not sure ‘Hot Print’ would be my choice of company name.
‘Angel Print’ or ‘Good Guy Graphics’, maybe.
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