Avoid counterfeit brands and pirated products online

Bad pirated products damage your brand’s goodwill. The Internet gives counterfeiters direct and almost risk-free access to consumers, and the number of counterfeit goods in the EU is growing. The customs authorities are being challenged, but as a company you can also take action.

We are all down for a good deal. Who has not experienced doing a cheap impulse purchase only to be upset afterwards that the product did not live up to expectations at all? There is nothing new to that. But today, the sales of counterfeit goods is increasingly taking place on the Internet, and here it is more difficult to distinguish the genuine product from a bad copy.

Internet shopping has also made it more difficult for the customs authorities to restrain the sale of counterfeit goods.

Pirated goods are no longer sent primarily in large containers, where all the goods can be seized at once. No, these days the pirated products are sent by regular mail in small packages to private individuals.

The Covid19 pandemic in particular reinforced already existing trends. The increasing presence of consumers in online markets has created a boom in the import of counterfeit goods.

According to figures from the OECD, it is estimated that 5.8% of all imports into the EU are made up of counterfeit goods. Just to give an idea of ​​the extent of the problem, this corresponds to the EU importing pirated goods at a value of 119 billion Euro per year.

In Denmark, since 2016 there has been a three-fold increase in cases of seizure of counterfeit goods that have been attempted to be imported into Denmark – and while in 2016 there were 2,500 cases per year, in 2020 there were 8,500 cases, which cover approximately 190,000 counterfeit goods at a total value of almost DKK 180 million (equivalent to an authentic version of the product in question).

Counterfeit goods are bad for both companies and consumers

Far from all companies work actively on protecting their brand. And it may be surprising, because the harmful consequences of piracy and counterfeiting are well documented and include, among other things:

  • Companies, that steal ideas from others and do not spend any resources on development, benefit from an unfair competition.
  • The owners of the “genuine” goods and trademarks lose income.
  • Society loses income from taxes.
  • Jobs disappear.
  • Consumers expose themselves to safety and health risks. The numbers related, for example, to generic medicine show this.
  • There may also be environmental risks involved for particular products.

Often, the sales of counterfeit goods is also linked to organized crime, and the goods are most likely not manufactured under conditions that meet the regulations of the Working Environment Authority. When you as a consumer buy counterfeit goods, you risk unwittingly supporting these kinds of unpleasant activities.

What can companies do against counterfeiting?

There are several steps you can take as a company to restrain counterfeiting. Below you will find four tips.

4 tips to protect your trademarks from being copied

1. Register the company’s trademarks and designs.
It is the first step on the way to being able to quickly enforce your rights.

2. Monitor your trademarks
Monitoring has become easier in line with digitalisation. Therefore, consider getting professionals to monitor your trademarks or designs.

3. Set up a customs surveillance.
With a customs surveillance, you get active help from the customs authorities in Denmark, Norway, and the EU to monitor sales of your trademark, and at the same time you get the opportunity to react quickly to counterfeiters who try to import goods with your trademark into Denmark, Norway, and/or the EU.

4. Create a policy for when you react to counterfeit goods
Decide whether and how you should react to private individuals’ imports with the risk of a “shitstorm”.

You should especially pay attention if your company sells these types of products, which are most often exposed to piracy and counterfeiting: Accessories such as watches, shoes, leather articles, incl. bags, and jewelry, clothing, perfumes and cosmetics, toys and games, tobacco, electronics, cars and spare parts as well as pharmaceuticals.

It is also the consumers’ responsibility to stop counterfeit goods

According to EUIPO’s report on Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2022, an increasing number of counterfeit goods continue to be sold online. In the same way as is seen with many other forms of sales, the criminal activities involving counterfeit goods have also moved onto the social media and messaging services. The social media offers many forms of advertising, live streaming, and link sharing, making public control difficult.

Therefore, it is important that we as consumers also help when we shop online. We need to use our common sense and be more alert to fraud attempts.

You should be concerned if you find a branded product online at a price much lower than on the rights holder’s website. Carefully examine whether the website looks professional, check contact details and the Central Business Register and read reviews of the company before you buy your goods at a bargain price online.

Do you or your company need advice in relation to trademark protection? We are ready to help you if you contact our experts.