EUIPO ups its anti-counterfeiting efforts online

Counterfeits not only damage the reputation and finances of intellectual property rights holders, they can also have harmful health and safety consequences for consumers. Now, the EUIPO puts the topic on the agenda.

Web shops and e-commerce marketplaces have gained traction in recent years, and it has never been easier for a brand to market and sell its goods online than it is right now.

But with a constant stream of new web shops and e-commerce services, it has also become increasingly difficult to weed out the many scammers that make a living by selling counterfeits under stolen trademarks online. Because what do you do as a brand, if you discover that others are selling counterfeit goods in your name?

In an attempt to combat the problem, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has put together a list of IP protection tools on various e-commerce platforms in collaboration with some of the biggest players on the market.

Stine Sønstebø, Plougmann Vingtoft’s Head of Legal in Norway and sitting member of the European Communities Trademark Association’s (ECTA) Anti-Counterfeiting Committee, sees the EUIPO’s list as an important initiative for the many e-commerce platforms that want to protect their customers’ IP rights.

“The EUIPO’s list sheds light on the e-commerce platforms that have already launched initiatives that aid in identifying and combatting counterfeit goods. At the same time, it serves as a reminder to e-commerce platforms that they should prioritize their anti-counterfeiting efforts,” says Stine Sønstebø.

Tarnished reputation and doubtful quality

Trademarks not only play an important role in creating brand loyalty and ensuring that satisfied customers choose and recommend certain products over others. Trademark protected products have also undergone tests that ensure that they comply with all applicable safety and quality regulations in the countries in which the goods are sold.

Counterfeit products, therefore, not only pose a problem to the trademark holder and the e-commerce platform selling the goods. They are also potentially harmful to the end user:

“Counterfeits are often of a poorer quality than the original products and they have seldom undergone the necessary certifications and quality controls,” says Stine Sønstebø and continues:

“By buying counterfeits, you, as a consumer, run the risk of either purchasing sub-par goods or even worse: that the goods are directly dangerous or hazardous to your health. This is often the case with spare parts for cars, medicine or kids’ toys. If the end user isn’t aware that the product is a counterfeit, brand loyalty and trust in the web shop that sold the product could also take a hit due to customer dissatisfaction.”

Protection tools on e-commerce platforms

The EUIPO’s list consist of a series of different IP protection tools from majors players such as Alibaba Group, Amazon, Ebay and Wish. Further, the list allows trademark holders to get an overview of the various tools that e-commerce platforms make available.

The tools vary from platform to platform, but most of them offer notification systems, dashboards, search tools as well as other IP protection tools that enable trademark owners to identify and report goods that potentially infringe on one’s rights.

Stine Sønstebø highlights three particular benefits of the EUIPO’s increased anti-counterfeit focus:

  1. With the EUIPO’s list, you as a brand have access to a combined overview of how to identify and report players that infringe on your IP rights on e-commerce platforms.  
  2. If you as an e-commerce platform appear on the list, trademark owners are more likely to perceive your platform as a serious and safe place for them to sell their goods.
  3. The EUIPO’s increased focus on anti-counterfeiting helps shed light on the problem and thus helps educate both e-commerce platforms, trademark owners and consumers about counterfeit goods and the associated consequences.

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