EU report highlights “urgent need” to ramp up anti-counterfeiting investment

Global trade body the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) has welcomed a new European Union report that paves the way towards “significant” opportunity and growth for anti-counterfeiting and security devices such as holograms.

The IHMA has commented on the Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment Report for 2022 by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and Europol. According to this document, piracy and counterfeiting continue to pose a serious threat to the European economy as well as people’s health and well-being. Imports of fake and illicit goods reached a value of €119 billion in 2019, which represented 5.8% of all goods entering the Eurozone.

More than 66 million counterfeit items were seized by EU authorities in 2022 – “a staggering amount”, according to the IHMA – as pharmaceuticals, food items, cosmetics and toys (among other goods) were targeted by criminals and counterfeiters looking to cash in on unwary consumers during the pandemic.

However, accessories and luxury products remain among the most prevalent categories for counterfeit goods, suggests the report, while spare parts and alcohol are also seen as being at high risk.

The pandemic has been lucrative for the trade in counterfeit and pirated products, says the IHMA, and criminals continue to see opportunities as global supply chains and economies re-adjust in the post lockdown economic and social landscapes.

The trade body is calling for additional pressure to be applied by manufacturers, brand owners, Government authorities and law enforcement to increase investment in anti-counterfeiting technologies to help stem the tidal wave of fake products flooding into the EU.

Security devices

Security devices on packaged goods can ensure quality and check the distribution and smuggling of illicit products, while items not displaying security holograms can be seized and destroyed.

Commenting directly on the EUIPO and Europol report, IHMA chair Dr Paul Dunn has stated that the ongoing ‘war’ on counterfeiting is a hard one to win and that efforts should never slacken.

He noted: “Holography has a key role to play as an effective and highly flexible weapon in the ongoing battle to thwart counterfeiters and fraudsters. All involved in the supply chain will be reassured by the presence of holograms on products and recognise the benefits they provide.”

Dunn continued: “The use of authentication solutions, as advocated by ISO 12931, enables examiners to verify the authenticity of a legitimate product, differentiating it from fake products emanating from counterfeiting ‘hotspots’ in Asia and eastern Europe. Even those that carry a ‘fake’ authentication feature can be distinguished from the genuine item if that item carries a carefully thought-out authentication solution.”

Advice for traders and enterprises

Dunn also points to the fact that the EUIPO’s Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Guide outlines advice to help traders and enterprises understand the main types of anti-counterfeiting technologies such as electronic identification, digital security devices and tracking tools.

“With counterfeiting on the rise,” he concluded, “there’s never been a more pressing need for the enforcement authorities to work together effectively, preferably with IP crime returning to become a priority in the fight against international crime. However, companies both large and small also need to maximise their protection against fakes by taking advantage of the numerous technical solutions out there to protect ownership rights and supply chains.”

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