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Product Piracy

Counterfeiting and product piracy are serious offences that affect economy, fair competition and the labour market. The European Union has responded to the worldwide increase in infringements: Since 01 January 2014, the new EU Regulation on IPR Enforcement 2014 has improved the legal framework in the light of economic, trade and legal developments in order to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights by customs authorities, and at the same time ensure adequate legal certainty.

Tips for consumers

Purchase of imitations is often dismissed by many consumers as a “trivial offence” or – from the point of view of saving money – only seen as a supposed “cheap bargain”. What is often ignored, however, is that plagiarism can also pose a serious threat to the health and safety of consumers.

Dangerous imitations

Such risks and dangers are for example

  • Allergies caused by cheap toxic paints used in the manufacture of counterfeit textiles
  • Eye damage caused by fake sunglasses that do not filter out harmful UV rays
  • Skin burns caused by counterfeit detergents or imitation shampoos and other counterfeit personal care products
  • Injuries from exploding mobile phones after use of counterfeit batteries
  • Skin rashes caused by metal bracelets from counterfeit watches
  • Injuries to children caused by counterfeit children’s toys that do not comply with the applicable safety and quality requirements
  • Serious illnesses or deaths after taking counterfeit drugs without effect or counterfeit drugs contaminated with harmful substances
  • Serious injuries or deaths after car accidents as a result of installation of counterfeit car spare parts of inferior quality

Tips for internet shopping

The constantly increasing sale of counterfeits via the internet is a growing problem and an additional source of danger for consumers.

When shopping online, it should always be borne in mind that a supposedly particularly inexpensive product may perhaps be offered so cheaply only because it is not an original product, but a brummagem counterfeit. Such counterfeits are increasingly being offered on the internet on beautifully designed, serious-looking sites. The true purpose of such sites can often be recognised only when the cheap imitation, which one has naturally paid before delivery, cannot be approved for import by customs.

Special attention should therefore be paid to ordering goods only from reputable suppliers. Branded goods in particular should be purchased only from well-known, established companies that work with the same reliability online as in conventional shops.

Internet auction systems and internet auction platforms are becoming more and more popular. This has also been understood by counterfeiters and distributors of pirated goods. The prepayment and the anonymity of the sellers, which are common in such systems, are increasingly used to the advantage of counterfeiters and to the disadvantage of buyers for the distribution of imitations. This is also because enforcement of consumer protection rights against the seller in the country concerned is difficult and expensive for consumers, or often not possible at all.

For online purchases outside the EU, it should therefore be noted – in addition to customs regulations – that customs must also act in accordance with the EU Regulation on IPR Enforcement 2014 in the case of consignments of pirated goods (so-called goods that infringe an intellectual property right). The result can then be proceedings initiated by the holder of the rights or – if all parties agree – the destruction of the pirated goods.

European Commission Campaign against counterfeiting of industrial products