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Pssst! Want to Buy a Watch?

If you buy a "Swiss" watch on the street, chances are it's either a stolen design or stolen goods.  But would you be equally suspicious of a watch offered for sale at a lavish private party?

According to a link from Dram Man, an information-packed blog by an American working in intellectual property law in South Korea, another American expat has allegedly been distributing his "Swiss" watches through just such exclusive channels.  The Korean police, however, say that the watches distributed by Lee Dong-Jin (a.k.a. Phillip Lee, d.b.a. Vincent & Co.) were actually manufactured in Korea using Chinese components. 

To satisfy the cautious consumer, the watches were apparently accompanied by fake certificates of quality and authenticity; some were even sent on a round-trip journey to Switzerland in order to generate import certificates.  Lee, who denies the allegations, traded on the "exclusivity" of the watches, even putting customers on waiting lists for the "handmade" items. 

Interestingly, the watches were not the usual copies of well-known brands, but were presented instead as something much more rare and known only to the initiated few -- including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Princess Grace of Monaco.  In other words, Lee is no ordinary trademark counterfeiter.  Instead, he is accused of inventing a little-known luxury brand and fraudulently deceiving customers as to the geographical origin of the goods.

The watches may not be authentic, but Lee's grasp of consumer psychology certainly is. 

P.S.  Dram Man has additional information on the apparent scam here (with another interesting link). 


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