In its September 2015 issue, Tobacco International featured a cover story profile of Venable partner Marcella Ballard and her work on behalf of North Atlantic Trading Company to prevent the counterfeiting of Zig-Zag cigarette paper products. Zig-Zag cigarette paper products are a popular brand of rolling papers that originated in France and are imported and distributed in the United States and Canada. The papers, which come in five sizes, are made largely from flax, and use natural gum Arabic.
"I would describe myself as someone who is well-versed in what we call the brand protection field," said Ballard. "Brand protection covers everything from the procuring of the intellectual property rights through trademarks and copyrights, patents and design rights, but then also recording those rights with customs agencies in the U.S., but also throughout the world…To bring it right down to the case of Zig Zag, we might tell officials 'this is what the brand looks like, this is what the big seller is in the U.S., this is where it should come from and this is what we’re seeing'…The enforcement aspect can be as varied as the client needs. It may end up in a civil litigation and I do a lot of that for North Atlantic, but it can also be educating the consumer, the retailer or sending cease and desist letters, conducting investigations, and following up on all sorts of things."
In the profile, Ballard discussed her involvement with investigations and seizures of counterfeit Zig Zag products over the past year saying, "It is wholesalers that are acquiring product that is not authentic and we're not always certain from exactly where…It's not a super-secretive operation. North Atlantic has a sales force and the sales force is in and out of both the warehouses and the retailers who stock their products. They take a look at what the product is on their shelves at the retail and warehouse facilities and they can tell if it’s not the same quality. If they see it at retail, they can find out where the retailer gets it from the wholesalers—and often times they can be in and out of the wholesalers because they sell to wholesalers as well, so they can see it at the wholesalers."