Counterfeit goods now account for up to 2.5% of world trade and 5% of imports in the EU and are a significant problem for many industries in a rapidly evolving digital world. As businesses are aware, tackling IP infringements in counterfeit goods by law enforcement alone is not always effective. Therefore, it will be welcome news that there is a growing package of alternative measures available in order to improve the enforcement of IP rights against counterfeit goods.
The European Commission has recently published a Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List of the most problematic online and physical markets reported to engage in or facilitate IP infringements outside the EU. This follows the Notorious Markets List, a yearly list published by the US government which names platforms and websites that facilitate substantial copyright piracy and trade mark counterfeiting.
The Commission’s aim by publishing the list is to encourage operators and owners of websites selling counterfeit goods and services, as well as local enforcement authorities and governments, to take the necessary actions to reduce the availability of infringing goods or services. The watch list should also successfully raise consumer awareness concerning the environmental, product safety and other risks of purchasing from counterfeit marketplaces. Although, the list is not exhaustive and does not make findings of legal violations, it may reduce the number of counterfeit goods and services sold by targeting, not only the illegal operators, but also the local authorities responsible for policing the infringements and the consumers purchasing the products.
Additionally, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has announced that the successful Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) will have its funding doubled. IPC3 is an international operation tackling IP crime with assistance from the law enforcement authorities of 26 countries, including EU member states and the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
Since its launch, IPC3 has seized 33,654 domain names distributing counterfeit and pirated items online. In 2018, in addition to the seized domain names, officials arrested 12 suspects, blocked hardware devices, identified and froze more than EUR one million in several bank accounts, payment platforms and virtual currency farms used by the organised criminal groups.
To raise awareness IPC3 has launched the boldly named campaign “Don’t F***(ake) Up”. The campaign informs consumers of the risks of buying fake products online and provides advice to help identify dishonest websites, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, such as fake social media accounts.
The watch list and IPC3 Operations form part of broader efforts to tackle IP-related crime across the world by identifying and monitoring the most problematic marketplaces and by taking action against organised criminal groups. These two initiatives are a positive step towards a future reduction in the sale of counterfeit goods as they importantly target purchasing consumers and local authorities by reminding them of their role in tackling counterfeit goods.