Most criminal activity involving counterfeiting is carried out by increasingly “professionalised” organized crime networks and suggest it is being use to support a range of criminal activities, including terrorism.
That is among the findings of the first EU-wide intellectual property crime threat assessment from Europol, and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 28 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organized forms of crime.
The joint report suggests that many of organized crime groups are also involved in activities, including drugs trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings, and terrorism.
The report, The 2017 Situation Report on Counterfeiting and Piracy in the European Union, also underscores that, while the majority of counterfeits in the EU market are produced outside Europe, especially in parts of Asia, domestic manufacturing within Europe is an increasing trend.
The threat assessment, carried out using EU-wide data and strategic intelligence analysis, also stresses that, as well as traditional categories of counterfeited clothes, footwear and luxury products, there is a growing trade in fake products which have the potential to damage human health.
An example of this would be the trade in fake medicines for the treatment of serious illnesses, which appears to be increasing.
“This report clearly shows that counterfeiting and piracy are not victimless crimes,”said Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle.
“Organised crime groups who produce and sell these goods,” continues Bolle, “have no respect for the quality of products which very often pose health and safety risks. Europol is dedicated to continuing its efforts, together with EU Member States and partners, to stop the criminal networks behind this dangerous and illegal trade. The health and safety of European consumers is of the utmost importance to us.”
116,000 Deaths Annually
Counterfeit malaria pills have been responsible for an estimated 116,000 deaths a year in sub-Saharan Africa, reports IPPro Patents, while the sale of fake pills online have caused deaths in more than half of the states in the US. Fake bicycle helmets were being sold during the Tour de France that failed to withstand a fraction of the impact of the genuine product.
French authorities found that the Charlie Hebdo attackers financed their terrorist attack in part by trafficking counterfeit sportswear. The group accused of the Madrid train bombings in 2004 had used proceeds from the sale of pirated goods to fund their activities
International authorities found Al Qaeda training materials that suggested using counterfeit goods to fund its activities
Hiding in Plain Sight
Illegal counterfeit rings are commonly found hiding in plain sight, reports IPPro, such as market stalls and second-hand shops, but in the era of e-commerce, the majority of counterfeit sellers are now listing items on well-known online marketplaces.
Copycat and fake websites are being used to scam people into believing what they’re buying is from the genuine brand’s store. Some of these websites are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, but most of the tell-tale signs revolve around products that have been heavily discounted, no sign of a physical address or a lack of contact information.
For the Executive Summary of the Europol-EUIPO report, go here.
Image source: express.co.uk; euipo.europa.eu