The War against Counterfeit Goods
The war against counterfeit goods rages on with Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), i.e., patents, designs, trade marks and designs, etc., being a major weapon in the fight against the spread of these damaging goods.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has recently released the results of a survey concerning the Perception of Intellectual Property since, as the Executive Director of the EUIPO states “The more people understand Intellectual Property, the less likely they are to infringe it”.
The survey found that 80% of Europeans agree that counterfeiting supports criminal organisations and ruins businesses and jobs and two-thirds of respondents perceive counterfeiting to be a threat to health, safety and the environment. However, only 8% believe that consumers are the main beneficiaries of the protection afforded by IPRs.
Manufacturers, who have invested time and resources into creating products that appeal to consumers, certainly benefit from the protection of their investment through IPRs. Counterfeit goods affect their profits and their brand’s reputation may suffer damage because of subpar products sold under the signs which identify their goods, i.e., their trade mark.
Consumers are protected too
However, consumers are equally, if not more, likely to be affected by the proliferation of counterfeit goods. The erroneous perception that consumers are not the main beneficiaries of the protection afforded by IPRs may have contributed to the intentional purchase of counterfeit goods admitted by 19% of Irish respondents – almost 20% more than the majority of other EU countries.
Overall, the survey found that 13% of Europeans bought counterfeits intentionally in the last 12 months however this figure goes up to a very concerning 26% for those aged 15 to 24 years old. The “Intellectual Property and Youth Scoreboard” from 2022 showed even higher levels of intentional counterfeit good purchases at 37% for 15 to 24 year olds, while in Ireland that number rose even higher to 43%. We have summarised some of the findings relevant to Irish youth in our graphics with this article.
Consumers may believe they are getting a great deal due to the cut prices of the goods however counterfeit products are not inspected, don’t adhere to safety standards and don’t offer warranties. Use of the products has often been to the detriment of the user leading to health issues and, in some cases, even death. Thus, consumers most certainly benefit from anything which allows standards to be maintained and a guarantee that they will, by purchasing the goods again, obtain the same experience.
Intellectual Property Rights protect us all
The control of the quality of goods through the protection of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) which are connected thereto can only lead to a better experience, with far less jeopardy, for the consumer.
As a firm of Intellectual Property Attorneys, we seek to not only assist in protecting IPRs through registration and enforcement but also to educate consumers about the importance of respecting IPRs and the dangers of counterfeit goods.
The organisation, FACT, has produced a helpful guide and we encourage you to check this out at Risks of counterfeit goods and how to stay safe | FACT (fact-uk.org.uk). You can also find more information at the European Consumer Centre Ireland.
The full report entitled ‘European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness, and Behaviour – 2023’ issued by the Observatory of the EUIPO can be found here
Cherrie Stewart – Director and Chartered Trade Mark Attorney