Brand protection professionals have long been tasked with the responsibility of keeping the market clear of counterfeit goods. But this has arguably never been more difficult than it is today.
Recent reports by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimate that counterfeit and pirated products now account for more than 3% of world trade, amounting to more than $500 billion annually.
While national and international authorities are working hard to seize millions of products at various points in the supply chain, there are fears that the sheer volume of illicit goods is unmanageable. Counterfeit operations have boomed over recent years as major events such as the covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing global economic crisis have disrupted trade routes and permanently altered consumer behaviour. Criminals have also been swift to seize on the opportunities raised by new digital marketplaces as people turn to alternative methods for sourcing goods. Meanwhile, counterfeiters are flocking back to the streets as covid-19 lockdowns ease and the demand for cheaper products intensifies.
The dangers of counterfeiting cannot be understated. Frequently dismissed as a victimless crime, this could not be further from the truth. Counterfeiting is often the work of broader criminal networks regularly linked to major crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion, human trafficking and terrorism financing. What is more, it has an economic impact not just on the brands that are targeted, but on national economies, workforces and innovation.
Brand protection professionals know this all too well. But it often falls to them to spread the message to consumers. Only through close collaboration with industry, law enforcement and online and offline marketplaces can we target both the supply and demand for counterfeit goods and really move the dial on this criminal activity.