Counterfeit goods and piracy: a reality…

Intellectual property rights play an important role in our economy: they encourage creativity and research and allow companies to reinforce their competitive position in the global economy. Counterfeit goods and piracy, however, pose a serious threat to this reality. More and more organisations (often criminal) make huge profits via counterfeit designs and signs which are protected by intellectual property rights and/or by trading these counterfeit goods.

Counterfeiting and piracy are concepts which are generally used to indicate a violation of intellectual property rights. This means that certain acts are carried out without the consent of the intellectual property right holder. Some examples of intellectual property right violations are the fabrication or selling of illegally manufactured counterfeit versions of products protected by a trademark (sunglasses, clothing, sports goods, etc.), pharmaceutical products, designer furniture, seeds, software, DVD players, music players and films and other protected works. In principle, any product sold today is a potential victim of counterfeiting. Counterfeits are not limited to luxury products. Even toothpaste and shampoo as well as washing powders and dishwashing products are counterfeited on a commercial scale.

The counterfeit market has become more and more professional. Small clandestine workshops have been replaced by a veritable industry equipped with high-tech material and their own distribution networks. Sometimes, counterfeit goods appear on the market before the authentic products themselves. 

... With harmful consequences for our economy

The consequences of the counterfeit market are not only detrimental to holders of intellectual property rights but to companies as well.

Counterfeit goods deprive companies of the fruit of their notoriety, positive image and their investments in research and development, innovation and marketing. This affects not only companies themselves but all of society.

The loss of revenues from counterfeiting is estimated at hundreds of billions of euros worldwide. The counterfeit market represents 5 to 10% of global trade. This results in a significant loss in taxes and customs duties.

More than 100,000 jobs in European industry are estimated to be lost from counterfeits. Moreover, counterfeit goods encourage the development of unregulated working environments, sometimes clandestine ones, which employ workers who are exploited due to their vulnerability.

Similarly, there is a risk to the health and safety of consumers. Products are manufactured without being controlled by relevant authorities and do not always meet quality standards. Counterfeit medicines are an eloquent example of this lack of oversight.

Counterfeiting and piracy have an especially negative impact on innovation and investment. Companies are less inclined to invest in research and development if the results are not efficiently protected.

An effective way to fight counterfeiting and piracy is therefore extremely important. In the wake of international and European treaties, Belgian legislators have thus come up with a variety of ways to prevent copyright violations.

How to fight counterfeiting?

It is important for companies to pay significant attention to the respect of their intellectual property rights. The acquisition and possession of these rights are important assets for any company. Without sufficient efforts to enforce the respect of these rights by third parties and without constant oversight of non-authorised uses, these rights risk losing their value as well as their effectiveness. Legislators have established a series of ways for intellectual rights holders to fight against violations of their rights.

Please note: before acting against counterfeit goods, you are strongly encouraged to contact an expert. The best thing to do is to contact a lawyer, as these cases generally involve going to court. This is particularly necessary as the subject of intellectual rights has been centralised in certain courts (generally the commercial courts within a main court of appeal) and legal proceedings cannot be brought before all courts.

Last update
9 August 2019