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EU customs seized over 41 million fake goods at EU borders in 2016

05-10-2017

New figures released by the European Commission show that customs authorities detained more than 41 million fake and counterfeit products at the EU's external border in 2016. The goods had a total value of over €670 million.

The findings form part of the Commission’s annual Report of EU Customs Enforcement of IP Rights, which also reveals that products that are potentially dangerous to health and safety – such as food and drink, medicines, toys and household electrical goods – accounted for over a third of all intercepted goods.

Sobering stats for brand owners
Cigarettes were the top category (24%) for articles detained and toys the second largest group (17%), followed by foodstuffs (13%) and packaging material (12%). Overall, the number of intercepted articles rose by two per cent compared to 2015.

China remains the 'clear leader' when it comes to the provenance of fake goods according to EU Customs data: 80% of articles arrived from China in 2016.  Large amounts of cigarettes originated in Vietnam and Pakistan, while Singapore was the top source for counterfeit alcoholic beverages.

The importance of working closely with customs authorities
Recording your trademark rights with customs in your home country and relevant overseas countries will help officials spot and detain shipments that infringe those rights. For the best results, be as proactive as possible in your efforts to educate those officials about your priority products, telltale signs for spotting counterfeits and details of who to contact if they have concerns.

According to the latest EUIPO findings, of 82% of the detention procedures started by customs, the goods were destroyed after the owner of the goods and the IP rights-holder agreed on destruction. In 8% of the detentions a court case was necessary to determine the infringement or as part of criminal proceedings.

A total of 77% of the articles were destroyed or were subject to proceedings in 2016 as a result of the detention proceedings. However, 23% of the articles were released because the right-holder did not react to the notification by customs (8%) or they were eventually found to be original goods (15%). 

Are your products at risk of counterfeiting?
Counterfeiting affects companies in a wide variety of industries, from fashion to pharmaceuticals. If you have a product or a brand that is popular and in demand, then it’s likely that you are or will become a target for counterfeiters. The threat posed by counterfeiting activity can be hard to quantify, but it should not be underestimated. Typically, a company’s sales and revenue will not only be impacted, but it will also suffer damage to brand reputation (e.g. where a customer mistakenly believes that they have purchased an authentic product and are disappointed with its quality), as well as loss of licensing revenue. Counterfeit products also pose considerable health and safety risks to consumers, as there is a high likelihood that they will be substandard, dangerous or faulty. For such reasons, it is advisable for companies to develop an effective anti-counterfeiting strategy if they are to deal with the growing and persistent trade in fake goods. 

What can you do to protect your products from counterfeiting?
Brand owners can call upon a variety of tools to act against counterfeit activity once it has been identified, but strategies and techniques to prevent and identify activity are of particular importance. This includes, for example:

  • registering key brand and product names as trademarks, and innovative design features as design rights, so that you can seek legal redress for any unauthorised use of those trademark or design rights (e.g. for the manufacture, distribution and sale of trademarked goods);
  • raising awareness of the issues within your business by educating your staff, business partners and customers;
  • actively monitoring the online and offline market, recording, reporting and carefully analysing the findings;
  • working closely with law enforcement authorities such as the Border Force (Customs) and local Trading Standards offices that have a statutory duty to enforce the criminal provisions of Trademarks Act; and
  • taking enforcement action where appropriate.

An important element in fighting counterfeit activity is internal education. Your staff, distributors and retailers are your eyes and ears in the market, so it’s important that they know what to do when they spot potential counterfeit or unauthorised sales. Consider running general seminars on IP crime to make your employees aware of the importance of IP assets and the threat posed by the trade in fakes, as well as specific training for those employees that are on the ground to help them recognise and report counterfeit products.

For more information and advice on anti-counterfeiting tools and techniques, read our anti-counterfeiting FAQs, speak to your Novagraaf consultant or contact us.