Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2022 just published

The latest Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment , produced jointly between Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), has been published today.

 

This report reveals that the distribution of counterfeit goods has been thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the health crisis has presented new opportunities for trade in counterfeit and pirated products, and criminals have adjusted their business models to meet the new global demand.

 

According to this report, counterfeit pharmaceutical products (ranging from a variety of medicines to personal protective equipment or face masks) have been increasingly identified in recent years. Distribution has shifted almost entirely from physical to online markets, raising public health concerns. These illicit products largely continue to originate from outside the EU, but they may also be produced in illegal laboratories within the EU, which are difficult to detect and can be set up with relatively few resources.

 

The frequent seizure of counterfeit packaging materials and semi-finished products on entry to the EU clearly points to the presence of manufacturing facilities in the EU (some for partial assembly and others running full production cycles).

 

In addition to the categories of counterfeited clothes and luxury products seized, there is a growing trade in fake products which have the potential to damage human health, such as counterfeit medicines, food and beverages, cosmetics and toys.

 

The production of illicit food products, and especially drinks, has become more professional and sophisticated, with some counterfeiters covering the whole supply and distribution chain. Violations of protected geographical indications continue to be widely reported too.

 

The threat assessment highlights that the distribution of counterfeit products mostly relies on digital platforms, a trend which has been reinforced by the pandemic and widespread online consumption. Counterfeit goods are offered on online marketplaces, via live-streaming, videos and advertising on social media platforms, and instant messaging services, usually targeting customers with misleading discounts or low-price branded products.

 

Websites illegally distributing audio-visual content are hosted on servers across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The criminals involved are adept at using advanced technical countermeasures. In some cases, digital content piracy is linked to other cybercrime activities such as crypto-jacking or the distribution of malware. Pirates exploit new technologies to conceal digital traces and use proxy services to create resilient hosting networks. The online presence during the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased offer of high-quality streaming devices and a variety of illicit content offers.

   

The online and offline distribution of fake and substandard goods has been a key criminal activity during the pandemic. The health crisis caused by COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that criminal organisations recognise no borders and take advantage of the slightest weakness or lack of coordination to strengthen their grip.

 

We consider it a great success that IP crime has been included as one of the EU’s priorities in the fight against serious and organised crime from 2022 to 2025 as part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).

 

Author: Juan José Caselles

Head Anti-Counterfeiting Dept. ELZABURU

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