Counterfeit Prevention and Brand Compliance

By on October 26, 2016

Like many industries, combatting product piracy is a constant battle and the adult pleasure product business is no exception. Counterfeit adult product is prevalent, especially with the booming trade in online sales. Synergy spoke with Susan Colvin, Founder and CEO of CalExotics, Chad Braverman, COO/CCO at Doc Johnson and Fleshlight Australia GM, Jason Fazey, about its impact and measures to turn the tide.

What impact is this having on your business as a manufacturer of authentic product and the industry as a whole. How does this affect retailers and consumers?

Chad Braverman: It’s a big issue, and it’s becoming an even bigger issue. Here at Doc Johnson, we make the majority of our products in America so we don’t necessarily feel the impact of it as much as some of the other companies in our industries do. But in general, just speaking as a member of the pleasure products industry, it is a very concerning situation– and it is something that is a major problem for our industry as a whole.

You have customers out there being duped by counterfeiters that are using other companies’ brand names, trying to piggyback off the brand equity that those companies have built over the years, while peddling a product of lower quality. So what happens is, you end up with a customer out there who wasted their money on a shoddy product, who is now upset with the company they believe is responsible for that low-quality product. So it truly hurts everyone all the way up and down the food chain.

Jason Fazey: Counterfeiting operations, essentially are defrauding customers by stealing from American companies like Interactive Life Forms, LLC. Losses from counterfeiting impact our product development, operational areas and ultimately they impact our customers. Counterfeiting operations defraud our consumers, most of which are trying to purchase legitimate products that are developed and made in America and Spain.

Susan Colvin: Counterfeit products are an enormous problem for CalExotics, JOPEN, and the overall industry. We see counterfeit goods across many platforms, and from across the globe. This is an issue that must be addressed now, as we do not want this industry to become commoditized. One example can be seen on When you search our brand name, or top product names you will see thousands of listings. This hurts our overall brand and creates confusion with consumers.

Many companies are using our names, trademarks and imagery to sell counterfeit products. The issue affects everyone within the industry. As a manufacturer, counterfeit products devalue our brands and cheapen our products. Consumers are being misled and sold inferior products. This creates a misconception of the brand and breaks brand loyalty. For resellers, the entire process hurts their bottom line. Consumers are not willing to spend the money on quality products because they can buy it cheaper online. They don’t fully understand the issue at hand until it is too late and they are completely dissatisfied with the product.

Not only do counterfeit goods damage our brand, but they also put the safety of the users at risk. The material and motor quality is unknown, which can be an issue due to the nature of these products. The consumer has no idea about the product they are using in an intimate way, which can lead to a variety of issues.

At CalExotics, we put all of our products through independent testing to ensure safety and quality. CalExotics also stands behinds its products, offering a warranty for every product we manufacture.

Our industry is not the only one being affected; it is happening in many industries, spanning various genres. In fact, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition estimates the value of global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods was $1.77 trillion in 2015.

Where are counterfeit items coming from and how prevalent is this?

Chad Braverman: Unfortunately, we don’t have to go overseas to see our products being knocked off. It’s happening right here at home. But one of the major areas of growing concern for counterfeit products in general is on the internet, where people are attempting to take shoddy, lower-quality copies of our product, and sell them online at a lower price—right down to even using our packaging art and brand name.

Susan Colvin: We rigorously monitor our brand and products through various outlets. One particular area we pay close attention to is online reviews. We found some of our top sellers receiving very high reviews one month, and the next month the product rating reduced dramatically. We looked closer at this and found consumers stating “the product I received does not look like the product image” or “the product completely fell apart when I tried to use it.” This was very concerning because the reviews were isolated to specific outlets. To investigate, we ordered product ourselves and found they were, in fact, counterfeit goods. We immediately went to the US Customs department to stop the importation of these goods. This is not an isolated incident, and we are working vigorously to get it under control.

Counterfeit products are sold through various retail outlets with the main thrust being online. For online retailers, it is easy to sell a knock off item. These retailers are using our product images, names, trademarks, and other information to attract the customer. Once a purchase is made, a counterfeit product is delivered to the consumer, and unfortunately, some consumers are not educated enough on these products and assume what they received is legitimate. Then, when they are dissatisfied, they complain to the manufacturer. This creates a vicious cycle, which needs to end.
Fazey adds that, “most counterfeits are made in China, and have been found throughout the US, Canada, EU, Australia and Asian countries”.

Which products/brands are the most often pirated?

Chad Braverman: It’s important to establish that there are two types of knock-off products.

The first category consists of products that are being passed off as the originals they copy, down to knocking off even the packaging art and the original manufacturer’s brand name. This is mostly done online; and there’s no real way to tell that it’s a knock-off unless you have the actual product to compare it to and see the difference, whether that’s in the quality of the product, the material used, the longevity of the item, or any number of other discrepancies.

The second type of knock-off is when someone just copies an item of the original manufacturer’s in likeness, and uses a generic brand name at a cheaper price point. Our Lucid Dream™ 14 and our Original Pocket Rocket® have both been knocked off a million different ways. Truth be told, every single company in our industry that sells a one-speed mini massager has knocked off our Pocket Rocket®. In the case of the Pocket Rocket®, ours is the only one Made in Japan—every other one-speed mini massager on the market is made in China.

Ultimately, these kind of knock-offs do hurt a number of different people. Replicas impact the brands they are stealing from in a negative way by loss of sales and market saturation, but they also harm the pleasure products community as a whole in a less obvious way. Our industry has always been built on resourcefulness and creativity. By supporting knock-offs of any kind, we end up supporting a practice that is actively harmful to the pleasure products industry and our community as a whole.

Susan Colvin: Our products, brand name and trademarks are being pirated across the board. We are seeing our best selling products being targeted most frequently. Jack Rabbit and Butterfly Kiss are among the top selling and top pirated products with respect to trademark infringement and misrepresentation. Counterfeit operations are also using our brand name, CalExotics or California Exotic Novelties, to lure consumers into buying counterfeit products.

Jason Fazey: There are numerous Fleshlight items being copied. Our #1 selling Stamina training unit and a number of our fleshlight girl products have been copied.

How do consumers recognize a counterfeit item?

Chad Braverman: Unfortunately, the truth is that sometimes they can’t. The biggest arena for counterfeit goods to be sold is online, because people can’t see the item or feel the item, and really have no way of judging if it’s made of an inferior quality.

Susan Colvin: Consumers must educate themselves on the product and brand. They must ensure the product image, product name, and brand name all match. They should also do research on the company; consumers need to know who they are buying from. Many online websites offer a company performance rating, which gives the consumer insight on how the organization operates on that particular retail channel. Calling the manufacturer, to ensure they are legitimate, is also another way to ensure consumers are not purchasing counterfeit products.

Another recommendation is to read product reviews. If an overwhelming majority of the reviews are negative based on product quality, shipping, and company interaction, it is most likely a low quality, counterfeit product. Consumers can also spot counterfeit goods based on price. If a product is offered online by multiple resellers and the price variance is extremely large, it is a possibility that the lowest priced item is counterfeit.

Do mainstream online retailers like eBay and Amazon cooperate with the takedown of counterfeit products on their sites?

Susan Colvin: Amazon has been essential to our brand protection. We are working to identify counterfeit products and those who infringe on our brand and trademarks. Once we’ve made the discovery, and provide the necessary documents to prove we are the manufacturer and brand owner, Amazon works quickly to remove the product and or company from their system. Amazon is committed to helping clean up this category to ensure brand owners and consumers are satisfied with their overall experience.

How can the industry and consumers help?

Chad Braverman: The biggest thing that our customers can do to thwart the presence of knock-off products is to believe, support and trust in brands. Our industry needs to rally around brand names and not always be looking for a place where they can make an extra penny or two by buying a cheaper, inferior product at the expense of the companies that actually put their hard work, creativity, and industry know-how into creating and selling these amazing products.

Jason Fazey: Stores and Distributors need to realise that by selling counterfeits, they are not only defrauding their own customers from receiving genuine products, but that they are also risking expensive lawsuits. They need to do the right thing and inform the genuine manufacturers and suppliers of where they’ve found counterfeits, so that it curbs the trade in this area.

Susan Colvin: We must all be vigilant when it comes to piracy and brand protection. At CalExotics, we’ve made this our highest priority; bringing in top experts and enlisting the help of several outside organizations. We’ve also met with US Customs and the US Consumer Protection Agency about the importation of counterfeit products to ensure we are stopping this issue at the source.

Resellers must only sell legitimate products, from legitimate manufacturers. If we all work together, we can strengthen the entire industry and increase sales.

Resellers must also be vigilant and only use correct product information verified by the manufacturer. An example of this can be seeing on To sell on Amazon, resellers must connect to the manufacturers legitimate listing, also known as the ASIN number. The ASIN, Amazon Standard Identification Number, is a unique block of letters and/or numbers that identify items on Amazon. If a reseller connects to the wrong ASIN number, the counterfeit activity only expands and ultimately creates larger problems. This is a major issue for CalExotics and other manufacturers within the industry. We are working to combat this issue and ask that all resellers on Amazon check their accounts to ensure they are connected to legitimate listings. If you are connected to an illegitimate listing, we encourage you to delist and reconnect with the legitimate ASIN number. This will ensure you are in compliance with our intellectual property, and you will not be subject to removal by Amazon.

Consumers must educate themselves before making a purchase. This means researching the product and brand. Once a consumer is educated on the product and the overall category, they will ultimately make the decision to purchase a legitimate product.

As manufacturers and resellers, it is our job to educate the consumers. We can do this by promoting genuine brands, and providing free education to the consumer. At CalExotics, we have videos, blogs, imagery and more relating to our brand. We are happy to provide that to resellers to help spread the message.

For resellers, it is important to promote your connection to top brands. At CalExotics, we offer free “Authorized CalExotics Reseller” signs for retail locations. You can contact us directly to for this sign, and other marketing support tools.

A Synergy interview with Susan Colvin, Founder and CEO of CalExotics, Jason Fazey, General Manager, Fleshlight Australia and Chad Braverman, COO/CCO, Doc Johnson.

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