The A-CAPPP Industry Academy: Cross-Disciplinary Training in the Battle Against Product Counterfeiting

  • Jeremy Wilson, Ph.D.
  • Associate Professor, School of Criminal Justice
  • Director, Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP)
  • College of Social Science
Photo: Flickr user U.S.Customs and Border Protection

Globally, product counterfeiting accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in economic loss each year. Its effects are multidimensional, impacting the safety and economic well-being of consumers, retailers and manufacturers, and ultimately, the entire global market. Because of the vast and complex nature of the problem, it needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way.

MSU's Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP), the first and preeminent academic body focused on the complex global issues of anti-counterfeiting and product protection, develops strategies for dealing with counterfeiting as it cuts across all products, industries, and markets.

According to A-CAPPP director, Dr. Jeremy Wilson, "There was a need for an institution to step up and take a leadership role. Because we have a global mission, and a land-grant mission, and we have one of the most highly regarded programs related to brand protection in the world, industry reaches out to us."

Having established partnerships with virtually all of MSU's colleges, A-CAPPP is able to provide the interdisciplinary approach needed for tackling this issue. An industry advisory board also provides guidance in the development of programs and resources that would be helpful to industry. "Our goal," said Wilson, "is to be that independent body that brings together all the different partners, and to develop and disseminate programs and resources so that government and companies have an evidence-based resource to help them respond to their own specific challenges."

The Industry Academy, a new A-CAPPP research initiative developed by Wilson, brings together industry fellows—brand protection experts from various companies—and provides them with the opportunity for networking, discussions about brand protection challenges and how best to respond to them, and conversations about what the university can do to be responsive to a company's needs.

Chris Lyden, senior director of the brand protection unit in corporate security for L'Oréal USA, is participating in this year's Academy. "It's exciting that MSU is taking a leading role in developing this cross-functional resource," he said, especially noting the number of MSU units partnering with A-CAPPP in this effort. Also participating this year are professionals from DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, and Qualcomm.

At the start of the Academy, the fellows submitted research questions that they wanted to address. Based on their questions, they were assigned to work with a faculty advisor who helped them frame the problem. Then, in early April 2013, all the fellows and their advisors came together on campus to collectively talk about brand protection from a holistic, cross-disciplinary perspective. After having time to meet individually with their advisors and with Dr. Wilson, they returned to their companies armed with new information and resources to tackle their particular brand protection challenges.

By the end of the program, the fellows will have created research "briefs" that contribute to the body of knowledge that A-CAPPP makes available to government and industry. Because of their contribution, A-CAPPP will publish these briefs as part of its "Backgrounders" series so that others can learn about the particular problem addressed by their research.

A major benefit of the Academy is that the fellows have an opportunity to learn about what is happening in other industries and areas of brand protection, giving them a bigger picture of the whole issue. They also have the direct benefit of having a venue where they can investigate a problem that is relevant to their industry, while gaining a professional network of individuals concerned with the same issues. This is the value that Chris Lyden sees in the Academy. "Developing contacts from other industries that deal with similar subject matter is invaluable," he said. "We have a common bond of working with the same challenges day to day." An added bonus is that they also learn a little bit about the research process, which they can then apply in their own industries as they work through other problems.

Wilson also stresses the reciprocal benefits of the program. "We gain expertise by interacting with them," he said. "And we'll have a product [the Backgrounders briefs] that we can market and disseminate so that those who can't participate in the program will be able to take advantage of the research produced." According to Lyden, it's "industry involvement in the development of the Academy that allows A-CAPPP to continuously develop as a national resource," one in which all sectors can benefit from MSU's program—law enforcement, government, and academic institutions—not just industry. The main benefit for companies is that it opens up lines of communication between the university and industry. "MSU becomes the place to go for brand protection expertise," said Wilson. "And we learn what we can do for industry in order to be a better resource and have an impact in the product protection effort."

Because MSU's A-CAPPP program is the first of its kind, it offers a unique opportunity. "It's worth noting that nobody else in the entire world has assembled such an effort," said Wilson. "We're the first out of the gate so we have been able to make a big splash in this area. We're international, we're interdisciplinary, and we're working with industry to bring together all the elements, resources, and expertise necessary to combat the problem of product counterfeiting."

  • Written by Amy Byle, University Outreach and Engagement

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