In recent years, the global trade in counterfeit goods has boomed, affecting the proper functioning of the EU market and leading to a need for enhanced anti-counterfeiting policies, particularly in transit countries where such goods enter the EU market (eg, countries in Southeast Europe).

Recent developments in the region, particularly in Romania, illustrate the damaging effect of the absence of effective anti-counterfeiting strategies on both market activities and consumers. Identifying the origin of counterfeit goods is a complex issue for Romanian Customs, since it requires a high level of vigilance and constant protection of the border against potential counterfeit products, mainly originating from Asian countries such as China, as well as Turkey.

The Romanian Association Against Counterfeiting reports that in many cases, even if market investigators notify Customs of shipments carrying potentially counterfeit products, there is rarely sufficient proof of counterfeiting. Therefore, infringing products that appear genuine and bear official serial numbers are released onto the Romanian market, leading to increased sales of counterfeit products and exceeding the EU market average of 3% to 4%.

Given the perception of counterfeiting in transit countries such as Romania, and the difficulties caused by the authorities’ inability to combat this phenomenon, reliable strategies should be employed by all relevant stakeholders – that is, manufacturers, distributors and traders, industry organisations and institutions, as well as state, regional and global authorities.

As counterfeiting is a practice that reflects economic and political developments, interacting with businesses and national economies and affecting public health and security, anti-counterfeiting strategies should be adjusted to the current financial and economic situation in Romania and should aim to balance market interests and consumer rights.

Mindful of the need to combat counterfeiting, state authorities should:

  • assess the economic impact of increased sales of counterfeit products on the Romanian market;
  • strengthen the efficiency of the relevant national legislation; and
  • decide whether new courses of action and initiatives are called for.

Even though implementing anti-counterfeiting strategies may be relatively costly and time consuming, the Romanian authorities should invest in collaborations with rights holders in order to monitor all import and transit routes, as well as important entry points for counterfeit products. Moreover, they should use advanced technical devices to ensure the protection and authentication of products and facilitate the detection of places where counterfeits are manufactured.

As well as encouraging monitoring by the private sector and the use of technical devices, the Romanian authorities should enhance their cross-border and administrative cooperation with EU authorities and international stakeholders in an attempt to review the national legal framework and provide for penalties and other means of enforcing IP rights, further harmonising domestic law provisions with general principles of EU law.

As both a transit country for counterfeit goods to the EU market and a country that produces, consumes and exports such commodities, Romania should vigorously implement measures to eliminate counterfeiting and opt for coordinated surveillance operations concerning the movement of suspected counterfeit goods at both national and EU level.

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