When rights holders think of brand enforcement in Greece, they think of the Greek islands. Summer on the Greek islands increases the problem of counterfeiting – partly in terms of volume and sales points, but primarily in terms of visibility. When they are trying to relax on holiday, brand owners, managers and their staff witness the problem for themselves – shops selling counterfeit goods are in abundance on the islands.

How best to tackle this problem is not an easy question to answer and has been the subject of much debate for brand owners. Ideally, they want to conduct shop raids and mass seizures. However, a Greek islands anti-counterfeiting initiative is different from any other anti-counterfeiting action, and organising raids and seizures against these targets is far from the standard procedure.

The scattered nature of the Greek islands is definitely a key factor. In contrast to the mainland, the islands are not easily or quickly accessed, increasing transportation and sometimes accommodation costs. In addition, the police are not always available and willing to undertake anti-counterfeiting actions, since they have to deal with a wide range of incidents resulting from the summer influx of tourists. Moreover, the target islands are mainly small communities, where news travels fast and one raid on a shop will frustrate all other planned actions, since other shop owners will instantly conceal their infringing stock.

Taking into account the above, in most cases, when the police take a trip to an island for, at most, a couple of raids on tourist shops, they end up seizing a moderate quantity of counterfeits and triggering a criminal proceeding that usually requires several witness appearances, incurring disproportionate transportation costs and appearance fees. The initial deterrent effect on the local community dissipates in a couple of days and the concealed infringing stock will be on display again soon thereafter.

Some brand owners do not hesitate to dedicate a reasonable budget to such projects, achieving impressive results. Hunting down every single infringer sends a truly deterrent message to the market, forcing counterfeiters to abandon their businesses. However, in times of austerity, budgetary restrictions take precedence and IP counsel need to give brand owners better results at lower costs.

Addressing the counterfeiting issue in Greece is not a purely summer expedition. A handful of summer raids cannot be expected to have a long-lasting market effect, unless a winter project is deployed or actions taken over the year suffice to produce results for next year’s season. However, focusing on the Greek islands, a brand protection programme should include the following:

  • The gathering of full intelligence on the targeted island(s) is vital in order to decide on the best action to take in each case.
  • Based on the investigation report, an evaluation should be made of which targets to raid. Raids should always be planned against major market players.
  • Most shops should be targeted by civil action, seeking interim measures and filing a main legal action to request damages.
  • Cease and desist letters may have surprising effects, particularly if recipients take into account criminal and/or legal action against neighbouring shops.

A quick settlement, together with payment of the settlement fee, is always desirable. The goal of managing a self-financed anti-counterfeiting project is feasible and could bring about impressive results. At the same time, trying to collect further intelligence on wholesalers can lead to massive raids and seizures, dismantling important and vital counterfeiting networks.

Michalis Kosmopoulos

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.