A seller of fake OtterBox cases was just found guilty. How easy is it to find a manufacturer of counterfeit ones and sell online?

The Company

OtterBox is a company that sells phone and tablet cases . The company is worth around 2.5B and sold $925 million worth of products last year. They hold a sizable market share for the mobile accessories industry, and with that comes the counterfeits. OtterBox is perhaps the #1 counterfeited brand for the sector. You can see our guide on how to spot counterfeit Otters here.

Counterfeit OtterBox products are getting better by the year

If you did not know, before starting Stigma Search, I used to run a company that sold mobile accessories online. A lot of the products I sold, were also sold by competitors, but they sold fakes ones.  From 2011-2014, the years I ran that business, I noticed one thing related to fake Otterbox cases. They were increasingly getting closer and closer to looking like the real thing. The pictures I get these days from factorys in the China are just like the real product. If you were to buy one, you would not know until you use the product and realize it is not the same. That is if you know what a real OtterBox feels like. If you were a first time buyer, you would not know.  Most previous owners would not know either, believing they just got a different model, or OtterBox is losing quality.  Look at the photos below and see for yourself how hard it is to tell.  It is just not OtterBox though, Speck, and other big brands are heavily counterfeited. See our post on the counterfeit OtterBox Defender for the iPod Touch 4 if you want to see a example on how close the case is to the real one.
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counterfeit otterbox

otterbox defender real counterfeit ipod touch 4 case front
If you were to just get the case, you would not be able to tell the difference between a real and fake one. One of the best counterfeit models I have seen

Those were what the fake cases look like these days. So you can see how easy it is to sell them both online and in stores.

OtterBox fights back. Counterfeits just get better.

OtterBox changes their packaging all the time to combat fakes. They have added watermarks on the packaging, holograms, and a lot other stuff. I don’t think OtterBox gets the message. The factory’s that make these fake product have so much experience over the past decade make counterfeit products, that nothing is a challenge to them. They may even welcome it, as that would increase their manufacturing skills. Plus counterfeiting is a national pastime in China.

Easy to import. Great counterfeit selection.

I get emails all the time from factories and sellers in China regarding cell phone cases since I used to sell them, that and my old email is on everyone’s email list. Here is a order form from one regarding OtterBox. Notice you can get all models for any phone. They even sell OtterBox cases for phones that even Otter does not make.

counterfeit otterbox order form
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See bigger image (2MB)

Go over to Alibaba and type in ‘OtterBox’. 

You do not even need contacts in China to find them. Just head over to Alibaba and search for OtterBox. You get many results. Take this post, it was the third link. They are selling the very popular nature/camo Otterbox cases.

counterfeit otterbox alibaba

The company claims they are “Professional Mobile Phone Parts Manufactors”.

The image has a watermark with the Alibaba store. As of this post they are still there. You can visit that link and see if they still are listed. Of course, you can just ask any seller on Alibaba, and they will either sell to you or refer someone.

How much people sell counterfeit OtterBox products?

A lot. A simple search of “johnson and pham” can show you. Johnson and Pham is a “legal firm” that specializes in collecting or suing people accused of selling counterfeit OtterBox products online. I put legal firm in quotes as they appear to be attorneys who try to scare people into settlements or collect money via demand letters. They don’t serve those they try to collect. They mostly contact accused sellers by email, phone, or regular US mail. You can see dozens open dozens of links online discussing them. This shows you how much sellers of counterfeit OtterBox products are out there.

And those are just the ones the company can find online.

Ok, so demand letters and threats from legal firms, and eBay banning accounts does not stop sellers. Does a US criminal court do anything?

Nope. Take the example of Michael Kurnik, 25, of York, Pennsylvania. He sold massive amounts of counterfeits online and in stores. He was first found by OtterBox company and was sent many legal notices, even threats to sue him. He ignored them and continued selling. When he was raiding by the police after a complaint from a reseller that bought from him, police found 6,700 counterfeit OtterBox cases in his warehouse. He pleaded guilty, and said he knew they were fake.
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What punishment did he get? Five years of probation and a $25,000 restitution.

Case Style: United States of America v. Michael Kurnik

Case Number: 2:14-cr-00085-GZS

Please note, this is not a case for harder punishment. I believe the Judge was right. Lets not violate the 8th amendment now.

What can companies like OtterBox do to fight counterfeits??

OtterBox is a in hard place. Since the fake ones look so real, it is hard to tell just by the image. In a expert hand, it would take a second to know. But online, you can’t do that. Battling counterfeits is a very dedicated task. It is like the sword vs armor. First they make a sword, then comes armor. They make heavier swords, then comes plate armor. Long Bows pierce that armor, etc…

What do you think? Comment below.

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