23 February 2017

Counterfeiting – the brands unite

Earlier this month Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, received a letter from 80 of the most well-known brands, including Apple, Coca-Cola, Dior. Lego, L’Oreal and Nike; urging the Commission to modernise European rules on intellectual property.

In a letter to Mr Juncker, dated 31 January 2017, the brand representatives highlighted the impact of counterfeiting on businesses and European economies. Appealing to the Commission they referred to loss of tax revenues from the import of counterfeit products, estimated to be at €116 billion in 2013.

The focus of their letter was on the role played by online intermediaries, such as social media, search engines, payment services and domain name registrars. These intermediaries have grown rapidly due to advances in technology over the past 20 years and aid the counterfeiters in their attempts to appear genuine.

The brands reminded the Commission of its promise set out in a paper in May 2016 which states that the Commission would “assess the role intermediaries can play in the protection of intellectual property rights, including in relation to counterfeit goods, and will consider amending the specific legal framework for enforcement”.

It will be interesting to see whether the Commission takes heed of this letter and addresses the role played by intermediaries in counterfeiting across Europe. If they do, it remains to be seen what impact these changes will have on intermediaries based in the UK after Brexit.