Tim Lince

A new study into the way EU citizens perceive IP rights has revealed a widespread and growing respect for IP across Europe. However, the figures in relation to young people (aged between 15 and 24) make for less positive reading, highlighting a worrying increase in the intentional purchasing of counterfeit goods and a growing acceptability of fakes.

The survey, conducted by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), questioned 26,500 people across the EU’s 28 member states on their perception of various IP matters, including the propensity to illegally download content or purchase counterfeit goods. It is an update of a similar study published by the EUIPO in 2013. The headline figures show that:

  • 97% of those surveyed agree that it is important that IP rights are respected and that rights holders (including inventors and performing artists) should be paid for their work;
  • 10% of EU citizens have purchased counterfeit goods as a result of being misled (this figure was 4% in the 2013 report);
  • 35% of EU citizens have wondered whether a product they purchased was genuine or counterfeit;
  • 78% of EU citizens believe that buying counterfeits “ruins business and jobs” and 70% believe that “nothing can justify the purchase of counterfeit goods” (on the flipside, that means 30% of citizens of a continent of 500 million people are of the opinion that there is justification to purchase counterfeits).

Responding to the topline figures at the launch event in Alicante, EUIPO executive director António Campinos said “attitudes towards IP rights are evolving at a time when the EU is focused on encouraging creativity and innovation”, adding: “Overall, we see that support for IP rights is high among EU citizens, but we also see that more needs to be done to help young people in particular understand the importance of IP to our economy and society.”

The latter is a crucially important observation. Digging into the full report, the figures include some worrying trends when it comes to younger Europeans. For example, while only 7% of all Europeans admitted to intentionally purchasing counterfeit goods in the past, 15% of those aged between 15 and 24 admitted to buying fakes on purpose – over double the continent average. On top of that, a growing number of younger Europeans feel that purchasing counterfeit goods is acceptable (with the results showing a clear divide between ages on the acceptability of counterfeit goods).

To demonstrate the contrast, some of the results by different purchase justifications are below (by age bracket and difference since the previous report):

“It is acceptable to purchase counterfeit products when the price for the original and authentic product is too high”

Total agree

Total disagree

Don’t know

15-24 years

41% (+7 since last report)

58% (-7)

1% (-)

25-39 years

29% (+1)

70% (-1)

1% (-)

40-54 years

25% (+3)

74% (-2)

1% (-1)

55+ years

23% (+5)

74% (-6)

3% (+1)


“It is acceptable to buy counterfeit products when the original product is not or not yet available where you live.”

Total agree

Total disagree

Don’t know

15-24 years

39% (+8 since last report)

60% (-8)

1% (-)

25-39 years

24% (+3)

74% (-4)

2% (+1)

40-54 years

20% (+5)

78% (-6)

2% (+1)

55+ years

21% (+6)

77% (+5)

2% (-1)


“It is acceptable to buy counterfeit products when the quality of the product does not matter”

Total agree

Total disagree

Don’t know

15-24 years

35% (+6 since last report)

64% (-6)

1% (-)

25-39 years

24% (+4)

75% (-3)

1% (-1)

40-54 years

18% (+3)

80% (-3)

2% (-)

55+ years

16% (+3)

81% (-3)

3% (-)


That young people are more likely to purchase counterfeit goods is not a new revelation. However, the report reveals that, in the EU at least, young people are proactively deciding that purchasing counterfeits is acceptable – and that should be a concern for the trademark community. In response, consideration should be given to whether anti-counterfeiting awareness campaigns are effectively targeting younger people, and whether new strategies should be drawn up.

Overall, the study is important because the understanding of the perception of IP rights – especially in regards to counterfeiting – across various age brackets and countries may help rights owners evolve enforcement and messaging programs. More gloomily, while the high respect for IP rights across Europe makes for positive reading, the results demonstrate the mammoth task that those on the counterfeiting frontline have in shifting perceptions, and discouraging the purchase of illegal goods, amongst younger consumers.

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