Potential Liability: Counterfeit Products in the Security Industry



It is no secret that the world of counterfeit products is booming. All types of counterfeit products can be bought at a variety of websites and the public is (mostly) very happy because why pay the prices demanded by official manufacturers when you can buy a knockoff at a fraction of the cost which, in many cases provides a better return for the money.


But when this applies to the aircraft industry, less people are smiling and as has been recently publicized in a New York Times article, counterfeit parts can now be found in commercial aircraft and are even behind fatal crashes.


Under these circumstances it should not be too surprising to find counterfeit products in the field of security and especially troubling, in the field of firearms.


Various websites and merchants now boast many counterfeit products including knockoff ACOG scopes and RMR red dot sights, counterfeit holsters, weapon mounted lights and other such products.


Only recently, a very large counterfeit shipment of Glock pistol magazines was seized in the United States; a shipment which could have then been distributed through proper channels to civilians, security officers and police departments nationwide.


Other sources tell of how very reputable merchants and their clients become the victims of counterfeiting: individuals who buy knockoffs have been known to switch them with original products they’ve purchased from licensed distributors and returning them for a refund, like this case of a woman who made a million dollars returning counterfeit designer handbags instead of originals. In many cases, the distributor never suspects the exchange and the dishonest buyers keep the original product while an unsuspecting client receives a counterfeit.


The issue of liability becomes a major problem when a police officer or security guard fires their firearm at a threat but ends up injuring an innocent party because their counterfeit electronic sight did not hold zero or when an officer or guard is killed while trying to draw their firearm from a counterfeit holster or while attempting to reload following catastrophic failure of their counterfeit magazine.


Generally speaking, ‘counterfeit products’ can be categorized into three separate groups:


    a. Original lookalikes – products which mimic original designs of reputable manufacturers.


    b. Toys – particularly those manufactured for the airsoft industry.


    c. Local improvisations



The first category is often difficult to spot, leading many manufacturers to post warnings on their websites, like this one on the Trijicon website and this one on the Aimpoint website.


The second category is easier to spot but for many remains very tempting, especially so due to the significant price difference between these items and premium products.


The third category consists of improvisations, usually carried out on a local maintenance level and includes improvisation of pistol holster or rifle straps, use of keyrings to secure retention straps to firearms, etc.



Who bears the responsibility?


This is a complicated legal question which would depend on the circumstances but generally speaking – everyone involved including the person handling the equipment, their supervisors, their employer, client and state regulators. Each of these parties could be found negligent depending on the circumstances.



What can be done


While counterfeit products remain a huge concern in many fields, there are many things which can be done to eliminate or drastically minimize the phenomenon and prevent loss of life or injury and as a result liability:



    a. Awareness – awareness is key in identifying potential counterfeit products and should be taught at all

        level of the organization.


    b. Acquisitions – in many cases there is a reason why a lower priced product is priced the way it is;

        acquisitions should consist of quality goods meeting predetermined specs and made from trustworthy

        sources (which too must be examined due to the abovementioned example).


    c. Improvisation – a ‘no improvisation’ policy needs to be set, especially where firearms or equipment

        is either personally paid for by the officer or guard or when a party with a financial interest (security

        guard company, for example) is involved. Maintenance of life saving equipment must only be carried

        out by certified personnel with original parts. Service logs  must also be maintained.


    d. Certification – when equipment is purchased or maintained a certificate guaranteeing delivery of

        original products or parts should be requested of the distributor/servicing entity (exact certificate

        should be drafted by a legal advisor).


    e. Inspection – timely inspections, preferably conducted by disinterested professionals.


    f. State regulators – should create minimum standards for life saving equipment and forbid use of non-

       compliant products or parts, set periodic requirement for inspection of such equipment by professionals,

       issue bulletins on the dangers of using non-compliant products, supervise all of the above.  



Mr. Novotny is a former member of the Israel National Police and Israel Military. He is the principal of the world’s first security law firm – Perry Novotny Attorneys at Law and is licensed to practice law in New York State and the State of Israel.


His firm provides legal consulting and training services to security and law enforcement entities on a global scale.

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