Director General, TIC Council
Counterfeiting is a hugely lucrative business, according to the Global Trade in Fakes report jointly published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 2021. The data provided by this report states that the volume of international trade in counterfeit and pirated products amounted to as much as 464 billion US dollars in 2019, corresponding to 2.5% of world trade.
These counterfeited products can at times also be found to have falsified certification or testing documents, meaning that the product attempting to be sold has not undergone proper testing or certification and may not be safe for use. Besides the health and safety risks that this entails, the counterfeiting of certificates and reports causes loss of confidence, loss of business, poor quality, unfair competition, and facilitation of international traffic of counterfeit goods and services.
The testing, inspection and certification (TIC) sector can play a pivotal role in supporting market surveillance authorities in fighting counterfeit goods and products, and we, as TIC Council, are at the forefront of this fight.
TIC Council members have notices and blacklists of cases where their certification marks were misused: this can be the case for both genuine products that falsely claim to have been certified or for counterfeited products. It is important to highlight that these databases are publicly accessible and can therefore be used by all, be it law enforcement, customs authorities or consumers, in order to verify if a product has really been certified.
In addition, one of our members, UL Solutions, partnered with INTERPOL to create The International IP Crime Investigators College, with the main objective to deliver cutting-edge training to enable investigators to effectively combat current and emerging threats from transnational organized intellectual property crime.
In 2020, TIC Council published a White Paper on Falsified Test Reports & Certificates, with the aim of guiding authorities and consumers in recognising and identifying fake certification marks, and how to proceed in case they think they have spotted one. All this information can be found on the Anti-counterfeiting page of our TIC Council website. Among this information, the paper also offers a series of cases where products bore counterfeited certification or testing reports, with an overview of the dangers coming from these counterfeits.
There are many stories of officials discovering falsified reports or counterfeit certifications, and this demonstrates how consumers’ health, well-being, lives, and property are put at risk and why it is paramount to increase awareness of the problem.
For this reason, in December 2021 TIC Council launched an awareness campaign, called “Check the Fake & Be Safe”, precisely targeting consumers and consumers’ associations. This campaign is mainly driven via social media posts at regular intervals, and its protagonists are the Mishaps, an alien family who just moved to our planet; over the various comics and videos that we have released online following their misadventures, the Mishaps try to learn to use unfamiliar products and devices, but they are still unaware of the issue of counterfeiting and all the risks that it entails. The aim is to show, through daily life situations, how these counterfeit products can be dangerous for us and our families.
Similarly, in July 2022 TIC Council Americas, the United States-based branch of TIC Council, launched another visibility campaign and Anti-counterfeiting Action Center on the occasion of the U.S. National Anti-Counterfeiting and Consumer Education and Awareness Month, to highlight the safety risks and economic damage that counterfeit products, marks and reports are having on our communities.
In the upcoming months we are planning to do similar activities to raise awareness in the other TIC Council regions as well, and we will keep promoting cooperation and partnerships with relevant law enforcement bodies, accreditation bodies and consumer organisations to safeguard health, safety and rights holders’ intellectual property.
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