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Is Your Brand in Danger? Brand pirates now fake SMB products. Are you getting hurt?

By Dalia Fahmy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For almost a century, Mitchell & Ness, the Philadelphia-based apparel company that now makes vintage athletic jerseys licensed from national sports leagues, cruised under counterfeiters' radar.

But when rapper Big Boi wore a Mitchell & Ness Houston Astros jersey in a music video in 1999, he sparked a trend that turned the $2 million sports shop into a $40 million fashion hothouse almost overnight. To keep up with demand, Mitchell & Ness president Peter Capolino outsourced production to Korea. Within months, fake Mitchell & Ness gear made in Asia had flooded the U.S. market.

Once mainly a blight on premium brands such as Nike and Rolex, counterfeiting is now taking its toll on entrepreneurs. Like Capolino, many entrepreneurs discover their vulnerability too late, after counterfeiters have already established a booming black market. Capolino, 61, estimates that imitators now sell more of his product than he does: Last year alone, 135,000 fake Mitchell & Ness auctions on eBay were shut down.

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