The NY Times (free registration required) today reported on a surge in forged counterfeit coupons  The surge is attributable in part to the distribution of coupons over the Internet.  As a result, retailers are declining to honor coupons that appear to have been created on copiers or printers. Consumer marketing consultant and syndicated columnist Martin Sloane cautions that the most-often forged type of coupons is the free product coupon which tends not to be distributed over the Internet, as opposed to the ‘cents-off’ coupon, which is distributed over the Internet.  He has written a piece suggesting that refusing to honor all Internet coupons is an over-reaction.

Whatever else it is, a forged coupon is likely trademark infringement.  Sloane advises trademark owners to increase the producion values of their free-product coupons (for example with regard to paper stock and complexity of printed design), and to use watermarking if feasible.

Note: If you were to Google the term “free coupon” then you would encounter yet another Internet sub-culture.

Note: the coupon above (offer here) is depicted to illustrate free coupons and NOT to suggest that this particular coupon has been the object of forgery.  It was selected because it has the cool blinking light thing.