“The shadow side of counterfeiting should be highlighted more”

Customs officer Baukje Rigter on the negative impact of trademark piracy.

In the service of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Dutch Customs contributes to combating trademark counterfeiting. Baukje Rigter, member of the Intellectual Property Rights national team, on the negative impact of this clandestine trade. “It involves many billions around the world.”

“From our office in the city of Groningen, our team manages the combat against violations of trademark rights for all of Customs”, IPR expert Baukje Rigter explains. “As an expertise centre, our colleagues can contact us 24/7. IPR experts in the field in particular contact us for support and advice when they’ve discovered counterfeits. We also maintain a lot of contact outside our own unit, such as dozens of international trademark holders and their authorised representatives, which includes law firms, for instance. They can ask us to act against violations of their rights. We will then issue an order which will be effective within the Union. Customs agencies throughout the EU will then halt batches of counterfeit products from such a manufacturer when they discover them.”

“We fulfil this task in order to protect the bonafide European business community. The economic loss that results from trademark counterfeiting is huge. In 2019, for example, our unit wrote out 1,100 official reports about this issue, with a total value of 62 million Euros. This clandestine trade involves many billions around the world. That’s why criminal networks shift their activities to counterfeiting more and more: profits are high, while the chances of being caught, the sanctions and the safety risks are relatively low.”

“Market players can also suffer serious image damage due to counterfeiting. Infringing goods that are sold as the genuine product often do not meet the strict quality and safety requirements of the official manufacturer. And as such, they harm his good reputation. We’ve seen so-called designer shirts that cause burns on your skin, telephone chargers that explode spontaneously, brake disks that give out far too soon, etc.”

“For our unit, it’s vital we are able to tell authentic from counterfeit. The industry is helping us to improve our knowledge in this field. For example, more and more business owners provide us with product specifications which we store in a secure database. And REACT, an interest group, organises courses for Customs and other enforcement agencies, so we know what characteristics and deviations to look out for.”

“E-commerce has become massive in a short period of time and it’s no secret that those millions of parcels that enter the EU contain a lot of counterfeits. That’s why Customs keeps postal and courier businesses under strict supervision, keeping a close eye on origins and routing of shipments, among other things. We confiscate a lot but we can’t check everything ...”

“Consumers often opt for the cheap option and generally have no idea about the health and safety risks involved in buying from overseas webshops. Neither do they know about the murky world behind trademark counterfeiting. They think ‘everyone orders all sorts online, so it must be OK’. It’s about time people start to become more aware of the negative impact of counterfeits.”

This interview also appeared in our recently issued overview ‘Dutch Customs in 2019’. Click here to read the full publication.

Navigate further, and also read ‘Tricky trainers’.

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