“Historic declaration” to tackle counterfeits signed by brand owners and shipping firms

Representatives from global shipping companies, logistics firms, anti-counterfeiting organisations and multinational brand owners have signed a declaration of intent aimed at preventing the maritime transportation of counterfeit goods.

Signed in Brussels, the declaration addresses growing concerns from brand owners that shipments of legitimate products are being exploited by criminal networks to move counterfeit goods. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the EU Intellectual Property Office confirmed this fear, revealing that $461 billion’s worth of counterfeits were moved through international trade routes in 2013, with 10% of those shipped on maritime vessels. Another report by the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) arrived at the same conclusion, conceding that the situation would likely worsen without closer cooperation between key intermediary channels, including transport operators.

Following that report, BASCAP set up a working group tasked with initiating cross-sector dialogue; it was from this that the declaration of intent was achieved. The signatories include some of the world’s largest shipping and logistics companies – such as Maersk, Expeditors, CMA-CGM, Kuehne + Nagel and the Mediterranean Shipping Company – as well as the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations. On the brand side, BASCAP added its name alongside 10 of its members: Bayer, Chanel, CropLife, Dupont, Lacoste, P&G, Pfizer, Philip Morris International, Richemont and Unilever.

The move has been described as “historic” by those involved, as it is the first time that the global shipping industry and international rights holders have made a public commitment to work together to tackle the issue of counterfeit goods on shipping vessels. While the declaration is non-binding, it includes a pledge for a zero-tolerance policy on counterfeiting, strict supply chain controls and various other due diligence checks to ensure that those suspected of dealing in fakes are frozen out. There is also a pledge to cooperate on anti-counterfeiting measures.

Speaking shortly after the declaration was signed, BASCAP director Jeff Hardy said it would “pave the way for new voluntary collaboration programmes”.

Counsel comment

We recognise this is a new and complicated issue for many in the transport industry, but appreciate the unanimous recognition – from all of the companies that we have talked to – that there is a problem and that more can be done to solve it. This declaration represents an important first step in this process and we look forward to now moving forward with the joint work required to develop concrete actions that we can all agree on.

Meena Sayal, global brand protection director, Unilever

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