Most criminal activity involving counterfeiting is carried out by increasingly professionalised organised crime networks, which can reap large profits while running relatively few risks. That’s according to the first EU-wide Intellectual Property crime threat assessment from Europol and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The report also underlines that, although the majority of counterfeits in the EU market are produced outside Europe, in particular in parts of Asia, domestic manufacturing within Europe is an increasing trend.
The threat assessment, carried out using EU-wide data and strategic intelligence analysis, also stresses that, as well as the traditional categories of counterfeited clothes, footwear and luxury products, there’s a growing trade in fake products which have the potential to damage human health. An example of this would be the trade in counterfeit medicines for the treatment of serious illnesses, which appears to be increasing.
In addition, fake goods are increasingly shipped via small parcels and express couriers which are more difficult for enforcement authorities to detect.
Online, illegal digital content continues to be distributed through BitTorrent portals and peer-to-peer networks, but also increasingly via cyber lockers, the threat assessment finds. The owners of these platforms generate profit through digital advertisements, which often include mainstream adverts from major brands. In many cases, these websites are also used to target consumers using phishing techniques or the dissemination of malware.
Christian Archambeau, executive director of the EUIPO, said: “This threat assessment paints a stark picture of the scope and range of counterfeiting and piracy in the EU and the damage it can cause to legitimate business as well as consumers. Through our collaboration with Europol, we aim to support the efforts of law enforcement authorities in their fight against Intellectual Property crime, and particularly so in the online environment.”
Europol’s executive director Catherine De Bolle added: “This report clearly shows that counterfeiting and piracy are not victimless crimes. Organised crime groups who produce and sell these goods have no respect for the quality of their products which very often pose health and safety risks. Together with EU Member States and partners, Europol is dedicated to continue its efforts to stop the criminal networks behind this dangerous and illegal trade. The health and safety of European consumers is of the utmost importance to us.”
The threat assessment will be released at the IP Enforcement Forum (co-organised by the OECD, the European Commission and the EUIPO) which aims to facilitate a coherent strategy to support effective IPR enforcement at both the EU and international levels. This high-level forum will also study ways in which to reinforce co-operation in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy at all levels, including bridging governance gaps.
The EUIPO will launch its IP Enforcement Portal (a single EU platform for the enforcement of Intellectual Property rights) at the event. Designed to support the IP enforcement community, this powerful new tool aims to facilitate the communication between rights holders and enforcement authorities, providing a central access point for most of the searchable databases for Intellectual Property-related material, including TMView and DesignView.
The portal combines the Enforcement Database (EDB), the Anti-Counterfeiting Intelligence Support Tool (ACIST) and the Anti-Counterfeiting Rapid Intelligence System (ACRIS) in a single platform.