News from the counterfeit world

On 17th April 2008, a Stakeholder Briefing from the EU-China Project on the Protection of IP Rights (IPR) was chaired by Luc Devigne, Head of Intellectual Property & Public Procurement at DG Trade. This briefing reported on the progress in the EU/China co-operation on the enforcement of IPR in China. You may be aware that the EU has allocated €12m to improve the Chinese courts and train more IPR judges. The briefing included a presentation from the boss of DG Trade, Ewa Synowiec which explained the programme for the year ahead. For more details see http://ipr2.org

On 18th April 2008, Commissioners Meglena Kuneva (Consumer Affairs) and Laszlo Kovacs (Taxation and Customs) hosted an exhibition on safety and counterfeiting in partnership with AIM the European Brands Association. The exhibition presented unsafe products that were withdrawn from the market by the authorities, as well as some counterfeit products, which have the potential to cause significant danger to consumers. The message was that Governments, citizens and industry have no option but to work together to prevent unsafe and counterfeit products harming citizens – economically or physically. Is our message of the last ten years really beginning to get through? BEAMA supplied examples of counterfeit circuit breakers and accessories for the exhibition.

On 13th May 2008, the European Parliament and the Commissioner for the Single Market co-hosted a high level conference on counterfeiting.

 

  • This was a conference organised by DG Single Market and the Single Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament.  It was given a very high profile with banners covering the Charlemagne building’s facade, one of the main Commission buildings. The conference was opened by Charlie McCreevy, the Commissioner, who said that he was setting up a new unit to deal with counterfeiting, and Arlene McCarthy British MEP, Chair of the EP Committee who said that Manchester (in her constituency) was the counterfeit capital of the UK. This conference was attended by about 250 delegates, including around a dozen MEPs and all the usual suspects from industry, anti-counterfeiting lawyers, WCO and INTA.

  • There was a table-top exhibition at which ORGALIME had a couple of tables, one dedicated to BEAMA, which had a number of sample counterfeit products and some pictures taken from our slides, other industries including pharmaceuticals and anti-counterfeiting technologies, as well as lawyers.

  • Speakers included MEPs, Lacoste, Unilever, Union de Fabricants, ITMA, Johnson & Johnson, BEUC (European Consumers), Originize, Global Sourcing, BT and WCO.

  • Most presenters went over old ground saying what an enormous problem counterfeiting now is and how we all needed to do something about it and that now that the Commission and Parliament are engaged, they would make things happen. Unfortunately, there were no representatives from DG Trade or DG Enterprise who have both been active on IPR issues for some time now. This was presumably due to interdepartmental rivalry, which is a shame.

  • There were four panel discussions. These covered the effect of counterfeiting on the Lisbon Agenda, consumer safety, international trade and Internet sales.

  • The most notable presentation was from Christophe Zimmerman, who is responsible for counterfeiting and piracy issues at the WCO.  He said that all we did was have more meetings attended by more people and what was the result?  Nothing happens and there are more counterfeits than ever – this was just hypocrisy. The battle was being lost, he said, and there are fakes everywhere.  At Zaventem (Brussels) airport shop, for example, many of the perfumes and mobile phones on sale are counterfeit. The problem is with the politicians and officials talking about the problem and making speeches, but not taking action.  In 2006, 5.1bn packages and 400m containers were in circulation and there were only 800,000 customs officers – and that number is being cut every year.  It is time to stop talking and start doing, he said. Specialist officers are employed to combat drugs but all the drug smugglers had moved into counterfeits as the penalties were much lower, so there needs to be specialist officers for counterfeits. The WCO has been planning to raid many African ports and expected to find at least 400 containers of counterfeits in each port. Some industries and associations were doing their bit, said Zimmerman, but many companies still ignored the problem – as for the politicians, they have failed!

  • It was naïve to expect the Chinese to stop making counterfeits. It is necessary for social reasons – from their perspective – that they continue, so we have to act to cut off the supply routes in places like Dubai and other free ports, so as to make it much more difficult to get counterfeits into our markets by having more and better customs and more co-operation and data sharing.

  • The other notable contributions were from Thomas Spiller of SAS, a software company. He insisted that if all of the data held by customs and industry etc was shared, it could lead to many more counterfeiters being caught. His company can supply the software, which can use the data to predict where the counterfeits can be found. Monique Goyens from BEUCspent her time criticising legitimate manufacturers for putting unsafe products on the market.

  • In the discussion, a representative of Ebay defended its record on preventing counterfeiters on the site. In response, Mr. Jamet of the UdeF said that allowing Ebay to speak was like inviting a pyromaniac to attend a fire fighters conference!  

  • ORGALIME/BEAMA described the activities of Electric Dragon and the work of ORGALIME to advise SMEs. We also supported Mr. Zimmerman, calling for a more proactive approach from authorities and tougher penalties.

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