World Anti-Counterfeiting Day was marked on 8 June 2023. This annual occasion is a reminder of the importance of tackling counterfeiting and piracy, and the need to raise awareness of the threat that counterfeits pose.
As EUROPOL states, the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods is a major challenge in an innovation-driven global economy. “The trade in fake goods is booming and is hitting the sales and profits of the firms affected by it. It impacts governments, business in general, and consumers. It cuts revenues and reduces economic well-being, health, safety and security,” says the agency.
It is estimated that counterfeiting and piracy represents as much as 2.5% of world trade, or US$461 billion. Counterfeiting is becoming a bigger challenge thanks to globalisation and e-commerce, which enable fake goods to be distributed around the world quickly and undetected.
Yet, according to a recent report by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), one-third of Europeans (and half of young people) say it is acceptable to buy fakes when the price of the genuine product is too high and 4 out of 10 consumers were unsure if a product was genuine or not. 13% of those surveyed said that they had bought fakes intentionally.
A strategic approach
Defeating counterfeits requires a holistic approach that is a mixture of deterrence and enforcement and will vary depending on the business sector. For example, in industries such as pharmaceuticals and transport, regulatory measures concerning health and safety may play a bigger role – whereas in the FMCG sector consumer awareness and reporting may be more important.
Each company should therefore develop a tailored strategy based on their particular positioning and needs. Having said that, it is critical that businesses embrace the need for creating and spreading awareness of a genuine product specially where the fakes have the potential to cause more than monetary harm – pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, food & clothing for infants etc.
For most companies, the foundation of this strategy will be an effective ring of IP protection, comprising trademarks and other IP rights such as designs and copyright that are capable of protecting the brand name, logo, product packaging, advertising slogans and other aspects of brand identity.
Given the inevitability and importance of online business, these IP rights may need to be reinforced by registering domain names in all relevant top-level domains and usernames on the leading social media applications, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. In certain occasions and jurisdictions, it also strategic to register similar/ similar-sounding domain names to protect the end-user from falling prey to fakes.
Enforcement IP rights can be tricky, challenging and expensive, and therefore vital to have a strategy that considers all available means, including civil, criminal and administrative where available.
Customs authorities are often critical in this exercise. Companies registered with Customs agencies are better placed to take proactive action through these authorities, including planning and executing education, training and awareness activities. We have advised parties on the best practices and measures to counter fakes and counterfeits in the various jurisdictions that are relevant for business across industries.
Brand owners also have tools and systems operated by the leading e-commerce marketplaces such as eBay’s Verified Rights Owner Program, Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit and Meta’s reporting forms to check instances of counterfeiting. To mark World Anti-Counterfeiting Day this year, Amazon announced that in the past year it had identified, seized and disposed of more than 6 million counterfeit items.
New tools and technologies can also help innovative businesses and brand owners in identifying, tracing and tackling counterfeits. For example, solutions that use artificial intelligence or Blockchain can help identify genuine products and track certain supply chains. Barcodes, QR codes, holograms and other unique identifiers are also widely used to identify authentic products.
Effective application of all these strategies has the potential to resolve counterfeiting and piracy issues; although, the significant variable in the implementation of these plans – public awareness, must be a continuous endeavour. Each jurisdiction treats fakes and counterfeits in its own unique manner and therefore requires any strategy against counterfeiting to be supported by consumer awareness. Fakes can be defeated only when consumers, staff and other stakeholders understand the risks that counterfeits bring, and how they can buy authentic goods. Brands can help themselves here, including by implementing and publicising anti-counterfeiting measures and by using technology and AI as one of the effective measures.
In this context, World Anti-Counterfeiting Day is an important opportunity to explain to the public why counterfeits are a threat and what can be done to combat them.
Contact us to find out more about how Aarna Law can help you develop an integrated plan to enable your business to prevent, identify and tackle counterfeits.