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“5小时能量”饮料制造商捣毁大型制假网络

“5小时能量”饮料制造商捣毁大型制假网络

Allan Dodds Frank 2012年11月21日
能量饮料制造商Living Essentials因涉嫌与13起死亡报告有关,正在接受调查。而最近,据法庭文件显示,该公司查封了约200万瓶假冒产品。据查,假冒产品的源头在圣地亚哥,销往美国。

    公司调查人员在圣地亚哥发现了用于生产假冒饮料的配料,假冒饮料在这里被装到仿造的瓶子中,经过包装后运往美国各地。调查人员认为,所有配料均从墨西哥进口。

    而针对零售店的一系列调查和文件没收工作早在搜查工厂之前便已开始。搜查的对象包括CVS药店、瓦莱罗(Valero)加油站和7-11便利店等,同时还在调查这些零售店的供应链,直到查出假冒产品的源头。上个月,来自科洛尔公司(Kroll, Inc.)的近100名外围调查人员携带授权进行搜查和扣押文件资料、电脑、非法生产设备和假冒产品的秘密传票,从零售网点入手,向上追查其中间人、批发仓库,直至供应网络的源头——造假窝点。调查发现,假冒产品销往美国大多数州,涉及加利福尼亚、佛罗里达、伊利诺伊、密歇根、纽约、宾夕法尼亚和德克萨斯等州的批发经销商。

    在当地执法人员配合下,调查人员锁定并搜查了圣地亚哥的生产设施,结果那里已经空无一人。但调查人员根据遗留的资料,顺藤摸瓜,找出了这家工厂的幕后老板。

    法庭文件表示,正品“5小时能量”仅在印第安纳州沃巴什的两家工厂生产。

    波特称,在加州和密歇根州设有营销点的人应该是幕后黑手。搜查中查获的资料显示,造假活动可能已经持续了至少两年。Living Essentials公司针对侵犯商标权和其他民事权利提起了检举指控,并要求获得2,500万美元的损失赔偿,以及全部利润损失的赔偿。最终,数十位被告人可能需要承担数百万美元赔偿。据称,假冒产品批发价为每瓶1.25至1.75美元。

    此次搜查源于九月底的一条线索。当时,公司从一位独立推销员处了解到,他从一位中间人那里得到的产品,似乎不符合标准,甚至可能存在缺陷。通过对这些产品的样本进行检验,Living Essentials发现,这批产品全部系假冒。检验结果显示,其中并不包含获得授权的配料,颜色也不是正品的淡粉红色,而且闻起来也很奇怪。曾经购买过这批产品的其他消费者也投诉称,他们从那些饮料里根本“得不到任何能量”。

    据法庭文件显示,正品与假冒产品的区别包括,正品饮料的维生素B-12含量为每日推荐最低摄入量的8,333%,不含糖,所含咖啡因约等于一杯12盎司咖啡所含的量。而假冒产品中含有糖,不含维生素B-12,咖啡因含量也各不相同,而且颜色与正品存在差异。虽然假冒产品的包装按照正品包装进行了仿造,但不同于正品,在部分仿造的塑料包装瓶顶部,并没有浅的凹槽。

    There, the company's investigators found ingredients used to make the fake drinks, which were put into counterfeit bottles and packages for shipment around the country. Investigators believe the ingredients were imported from Mexico.

    That raid followed a series of investigations and document seizures that began in retail stores, including CVS drug stores, Valero (VLO) gasoline stations and 7-Eleven shops, and traced their supply chains back to the source of the fake products. In the last month, nearly 100 outside investigators from Kroll, Inc., armed with secret subpoenas authorizing raids to seize documents, computers, illegal manufacturing equipment and counterfeit products, had fanned across the country to trace the supply lines back from retail outlets through middlemen to wholesale warehouses and to the manufacturing facility. They found the product in a majority of the states and at wholesale distributors in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

    Accompanied by local law enforcement authorities, the investigators located and raided the manufacturing facility in San Diego, which was unmanned, but contained records leading the investigators to the alleged bosses of the operation.

    The court documents say that genuine 5-Hour Energy is made only at two plants in Wabash, Ind.

    Potter says that people with distribution operations in California and Michigan are believed to be the masterminds of the scheme. Records seized in the raids show the counterfeiting may have been going on for at least two years. The complaints, charging violations of trademarks and other civil violations, ask for $25 million in damages and recovery of all lost profits, which could be millions of dollars more from dozens of defendants. The fake products allegedly were being sold wholesale for $1.25 to $1.75 a bottle.

    The hunt was triggered in late September when the company learned from an independent salesman that he had obtained products from a broker that appeared to be substandard and possibly defective. By examining those product samples, Living Essentials discovered they were counterfeit -- they did not consist of the authorized ingredients, were not the pale pink color of the real products and smelled funny, the filings show. Other customers who had bought fakes also had complained they were getting "no energy" from the drinks they had bought.

    Among the differences, according to court documents, the real drink contains 8,333% of the minimum Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin B-12, no sugar, and caffeine roughly equal to the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee. The counterfeits had sugar, no B-12, varying amounts of caffeine, and were different colors. While the packaging of the counterfeits closely resembled the real products, some bottles did not contain a dimple on the top of the plastic bottle, which is left by the manufacturing process for the real product.

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