The annual report of the European Intellectual Property Office regrets the lack of commitment of some European countries in the fight against counterfeiting. A fraudulent activity that is becoming more professional and seizing the opportunities offered by globalization.
The statistics are misleading. Counterfeiting is doing well. She is becoming more professional. The joint annual report of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and Europol does show a decrease in seizures of pirated products at the Union’s borders in 2017. The number of customs seizures amounted to 57,433 compared to 63,184 in 2016 and 95,194 in 2014. In terms of number of articles, value and number of articles per seizure, the trend is declining.
A priority taken into default
But the reality is quite different. “Often considered a victimless crime”, for many European countries, intellectual property fraud is not one of their top priorities. And at the European level, “counterfeiting has been eliminated from the priorities of the European Union’s policy cycle on serious and organised crime 2017-2021, which has probably led to a reduction in the number of investigations and operations carried out”. This is the height of the problem, at a time when counterfeiting is costing Europe dearly in terms of jobs.
Counterfeiters who become more professional would therefore have a bright future ahead of them. Counterfeiting criminal activities are carried out by “increasingly professionalized organized crime networks” and the manufacture of pirated products in Europe is “a growing trend”, according to the study. China, the world’s leading supplier of counterfeit goods, is opening up new opportunities with its project for new silk routes. “The increasing number of rail links between China and the European Union offers counterfeiters an opportunity to diversify their routes and transport methods,” says EUIPO. Rail freight transportation is much faster than marine transportation and much cheaper than air transportation, the Agency adds. However, the number of seizures by rail is still very low, he regrets. It is likely that an increasing number of pirated goods may arrive at the external borders of the eastern European Union by train and then be distributed throughout Europe.
Globalization at work
Seizures will also be difficult to make due to globalization. The breakdown of value chains is no secret to organized criminal groups. Regular shipments of empty wine bottles, unfinished counterfeit products, unlabelled products, labels and components are identified. These products “are probably reworked and used for the production of counterfeits within the European Union itself”. For example, counterfeiters fill empty bottles with low-quality wine or adulterated spirits, then label the bottles with luxury or expensive brands.
Counterfeiting in the wine sector
European customs have a lot of work ahead of them. According to EUIPO’s estimate, counterfeit and pirated products could represent up to 6.8% of imports in the EU worth €121 billion. An amount that has “increased significantly in recent years”. The hidden side of counterfeiting remains to be discovered.