Online Sales of Counterfeits: Is it about collaboration or delegation (of responsibility) ? PDF Print E-mail
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Being in Brussels has its few advantages one of which is being the place where you can actually hear both real lobbyists and experts from the very same industry players thinking differently about crucial for our times topics such as facing the fight with counterfeits.

Despite of its noble idea to be a policy debate the today's event at the European Parliament "Online Sales of Counterfeits: Taking up the gauntlet" was rather a responsibilities' throwing-to-each-other-the-ball game.

For those of you who wonder what issue the topic was foreseen to tackle, it was the different viewpoints on the question who has to actually take over the real responsibility for the prevention of online sales of counterfeits. However, the dialogue (rather than debate) ended up into a commentary of the importance of tackling the issue of having counterfeits in the first place and not so much the fact that we talk about their allocation within the digital market environment.

And despite that the owners of such digital e-commerce platforms certainly have an economic interest to face this as an issue, it rather was misunderstood the concept of tackling a complex issue such as fight against counterfeits when there is no clear differentiation about what the counterfeits are: physical goods like a luxury brand bag or virtual (or digital, however you prefer) such as music. Here came to my mind the question how it comes that music and the similar media products are tackled under the same big counterfeiting-policy debate topic when they are actually completely distinct by their nature.

Counterfeited media products in a digital format sold/uploaded for free download on a platform can hardly be treated on the same way as for example physical goods copies offered over well-known platforms. If you are fan of a band wouldn't you clearly notice the difference in the sounding of your fav new song, being uploaded for free downloading on a virtual platform. Counterfeited digital media products usage is rather a question of consumer preference and choice than actual question of rights-ownership of the original song for example. If it wasn't the case, millions of YouTube videos would have been deleted from the YouTube platform. In opposite, the counterfeit prevention of sales of physical products over a digital environment is a great deal of shared responsibility, instead of putting a line between: we just sell it online; we just deliver it; we just allow it to enter out country; we just pay for it;

As I made few comments based on the words of the speakers on IPR2012, you can follow up bellow few curious conclusions like the fact that in Belgium if you are arrested for counterfeiting, you can go for just up to 3 months in jail. Of course, that only if a successful (and expensive) undercover operation is executed, you can imagine how much such one costs to be economically productive for the worth of stopping such salesman// Belgium a good place to be if you want to start illegal copy-selling business!

As Massimiliano Caruso from the World Customs Organization emphasized:

- how and where counterfeit owners are detected remains outside the competencies of postal services //that's why you don't need to wonder why e-commerce in the EU is extremely underdeveloped (for ref check eurostat)
- for the custom services is hard to determine which packages are counterfeits and which are not, what consignments are to be checked and controlled
- the procedures to take action against counterfeits for couple of shirts are very expensive: the right owners wouldn't act on a small package! // imagine about what amount of money making are we speaking coming just from the NOT-action-taking of brand owners
- would awareness-raising campaigns in customs help in the prevention of online sales of counterfeits? // awareness-raising and action-taking seem unconnected if you follow this train of thoughts


Tanja de Coste, Director Intellectual Property Counsel at eBay explained very well how the important the word or mouth in tackling counterfeiting. eBay understands that, so better don't think to cheat on such a leading platform. You need to change identities of a salesman many times if you want to cheat the system.

- the cooperation between the platforms and the rights owners have improved! maturing of the market, everyone wants to get to a better place - it's about cooperation // not sure about that, since obviously there is no major progress in the eradication of such bad practices. Industry can't handle this alone, if the business models and regulatory frameworks remain two separate instances


Paddy Flynn, Director Product Quality Operations at Google explained how the 3-layered strategy against counterfeiting in advertisement works for Google

- once Google detects several infringements: you are banned from their ads' system

- 2011: 130 million ads disapproved; 80 000 advertisers accounts closed

- Google and the other platforms have to closely work with brand owners


Tim Renner, Founder of Motor Entertainment studio about the music industry: we used to control the bundle, but now that doesn't work:we can't keep on telling customers what they have to buy

- timing also was control: when do we release what: the moment of biggest desire
- I don't call them pirates, but I call them Black market retailers

In response to that Jean Bergevin, Head of Unit, Fight against Counterfeiting and piracy at the European Commission very rightly said that we still haven't created the successful Single Market, but the guys who do counterfeits have worked out our their Single Market very successfully. Don't forget that they have never complained about cultural differences...


Lucy Nichols, Global Director for Brand Enforcement at Nokia was straightforward about how Nokia does it:

- no enforcement effort will help you to overcome counterfeiting
- go to the place of manufacture, usually outside your country! that produces the highest ROI
- if you see offer for 1000 counterfeit products, you can't assume that the seller actually has those in his inventory. Usually after receiving an order he scrambles to 5-6 diff suppliers to fulfill it! So in conclusion, instead of hunting the salesman, go to the source of the products - the manufacturers.



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