Counterfeiting and piracy are constant challenges for brand owners in both online and offline channels. The Anti-counterfeiting Benchmarking Report released by the International Trademark Association (INTA) in May provides valuable insights and counterfeiting statistics that illuminate the scale of the problem and the resources necessary to address it.

Based on a survey of its global corporate membership, INTA's May Anti-counterfeiting Benchmarking Report contains valuable insight into how brand owners view questions such as the scale and impact of fake goods, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on piracy and counterfeiting online, and what is necessary to tackle the problem from a resource, budget and knowledge-sharing perspective.

Counterfeiting statistics reveal a fast-evolving threat

The report reveals the extent of the threat faced by companies globally, with a majority of respondents saying that counterfeits are becoming a larger issue for their companies, with counterfeiting-related problems not only increasing as a result of the pandemic but also as a result of the economic downturn and the growth of online marketplaces and direct sales to consumers.

The majority of respondents said they expected counterfeits and lookalikes/copycats to become a substantial threat in the next 1-3 years, with the need to tackle fraud, grey market goods/parallel imports, illicit trade, product tampering and/or supplier issues also high on their priority lists.

However, many of these brand owners are working with very limited resources in terms of staff and budgets, with the majority of the opinion that they are investing too little in their anti-counterfeiting initiatives or technologies.

What can brand owners do to address this complex challenge?

Brand owners can call upon a variety of tools to act against counterfeit activity once it has been identified, but strategies and techniques to prevent and identify activity are of particular importance. This includes, for example:

  • registering key brand and product names as trademarks, and innovative design features as design rights, so that you can seek legal redress for any unauthorised use of those trademark or design rights (e.g. for the manufacture, distribution and sale of trademarked goods);
  • raising awareness of the issues within your business by educating your staff, business partners and customers;
  • actively policing the online market, including recording, reporting and carefully analysing the findings;
  • extending your anti-counterfeiting activities to include social media sites, such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook (for more on this, read our article 'Getting social with your anti-counterfeiting strategy');
  • working closely with law enforcement authorities such as the Border Force (Customs) and local Trading Standards offices; and
  • taking enforcement action where appropriate.

When developing and enforcing your anti-counterfeiting strategy, it's important to work with a partner that understands the challenges that brand owners face in their battle to hunt down and act against counterfeit products. Make sure any provider you choose brings a clear and proven strategy, and expertise on the rules and requirements in key jurisdictions, the current threats and common channels for trafficking, and the costs and process involved at each stage of enforcement. The right IP provider will know, from experience, where you should start and end your anti-counterfeiting efforts, so use that knowledge to guide and assist you when taking your first – or next – step towards building an effective and measurable strategy for action.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.