The phenomenal challenge posed by counterfeiting: what are we going to do?
Chair: Martin Gill
Euan Grant – Customs, Tax & Border Control Consultant at Grant & Gutsell Consultants
Sanjay Kaushik – Managing Director Netrika Consulting India Pvt ltd
Kieron Sharp – Chief Executive at FACT
Keiron Sharp’s focus in professional life is the protection of output from films, television etc. Once upon a time the focus was on counterfeit DVD, but things change and time moves on and so do counterfeiters. The main issue nowadays are online, streaming services and especially sport outputs suffer (via use of illegal feeds) and it has a massive impact. It is difficult to manage in part because in being online it is not physical, it can’t be seen, it is not easy to disrupt. There are many pockets of good practice, there is some industry collaboration, there is government pressure, there is some law enforcement action, but in each of these cases there is simply not enough. Focussing attention on counterfeiting may be generated by highlighting the links with organised crime and the costs. Another way, given that many incidents are not reported, is to highlight the benefits good investigations bring. In any event, reporting more is all well and good but incidents need to be acted upon. Security measures can work but they are soon overcome.
Sanjay Kaushik notes that the speed and efficiency with which counterfeiters react to opportunities is reflected in their quick delivery of counterfeit Covid-19 drugs to the market; there is no way of knowing the damage caused. Counterfeiters are not easy to identify, they operate in multiple districts and can hide to some extent online. Police enforcement is slight. It is not just drugs of course, almost any item can be copied and marketed. The government is losing money via taxes so they may be expected to be more interested. Industry too, for whom he recommends a three pronged approach: the need to educate customers and other stakeholders and keep awareness high; a focus on protecting products well (including in supply chains); and enforcing copyright protections. They are up against able counterfeiters who know how to get around the barriers in their way.
Euan Grant outlines the challenge and threat posed by offenders working from Russia and Russian speaking nations and China and greater China. The problem is much more serious than international organised crime, counterfeiting can be sponsored and protected by nation states. There is a need for more cooperation between authorities and companies, better data sharing, and more sharing of experience. Euan directs us to areas where progress can be made. He points to food and pharmaceuticals, building on the experience of alcohol and tobacco which have been active, it involves bringing countries together by recognising they have different priorities – as do different areas – so can cooperate on a mutual basis respecting those different needs and skill sets. Supply chains are weak, they can be strengthened by restoring middle management. He calls on engagement from the whole of a company, the whole of an industry, the whole of government, and the whole of a society. There is a need to publicise the damage caused and the revenue lost via actual case studies; they are more real than numbers given the difficulty of quantifying counterfeiting.
For Euan the problem is epitomised by a recent press release from Europol about the Italian Mafia counterfeiting currency in Germany. It is international, organised and has far reaching implications. Part of the difficulty is getting recognition of the scale of the problem and what it takes to be successful; this international issue has for too long been under the radar. That said there are successes, and a starting point is to highlight these, the dangers of not doing so are very real as the decision about counterfeit covid-19 rugs so poignantly highlights.
20th May, 2021