All it took was 20 minutes of searching on Alibaba, a website that connects manufacturers and suppliers with other businesses, to filter through the legitimate and straightforward lens filter manufacturers to find the slightly more suspicious sellers.
Disclosure: I did not specifically ask these filter manufacturers to create counterfeit products for me, nor was I going to bait them into doing so, I merely asked if they could make them to the specifications necessary for a counterfeit.
I contacted various sellers and asked them if it were possible to get custom engraving / printing in golden-yellow, blue, or red colors. Those colors are of course used by legitimate lens filter manufacturers like B+W and Zeiss to brand their filters. The answer was yes, how many, and what size would you like… I also asked if the lens filter’s packaging could be customized to match the filters coloring… the answer was also yes.
That custom printing plus the fact that the metal frames of the lens filters are already exactly the same shape / style, approximately the same dimensions (I could order the correct dimensions if I’d like), and made of the same metal… means that I have every step needed to counterfeit and sell lens filters from a variety of brands.
I can directly purchase filters that have the same styling as Tiffen filters, Zeiss filters, and even the slimmer B+W XS-Pro filters.
No big brand is seemingly immune when it comes to counterfeiting… which may not be surprising for purses but is a little surprising for a simple $30 photography accessory.
And the convenience of Alibaba means that I could even contact a seller of custom packaging and have them produce the counterfeit packaging for me… reducing my chances of getting caught or having the manufacturer refuse to do it. That is of course if I’m not using the original products packaging and simply switching the filter inside.
Now, I am not saying that these manufacturers and sellers are complicit in illegal activity and I’m not exactly sure it should be their job to police other people’s brands… it’s their job to make what people ask them to make after all and I just don’t think their mindset really involves much thought on trademark infringement.
They make what we ask them to make even if it ends up being a counterfeit.
And that’s the real point here… if you and I can arrange to have reasonable facsimiles of big brand’s lens filters manufactured for us, how hard would it really be for a person a bit more well-connected and dedicated to illegal conduct than ourselves to counterfeit these things?
Not hard at all, that’s the answer.
Counterfeits everywhere, buyer beware.