counterfeiting (7)

8041096082?profile=RESIZE_400xMooncakes are a traditional Chinese bakery product eaten during the moon watching Autumn Festival. Chinese police have arrested 40 people suspected of producing and selling fake mooncakes of a well known Hong Kong brand. The investigation started when it was discovered that this brand of mooncakes were being sold 50-70% cheaper on-line. This eventually led them to a production line in Zhangzhou, which employed 100 people producing the fake mooncakes 24/7, where over 12,000 boxes of the fakes were seized. Police said the authentic counterparts of the seized mooncakes are worth over 30 million yuan (US$4.4 million). The investigation is still on-going.

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6498960689?profile=RESIZE_400x The Italian NAS Carabinieri of Florence (Arma dei Carabinieri), supported by Europol, have closed down a network of wine counterfeiters, selling online fake premium Italian wines. Law enforcement officers carried out raids in eight Italian provinces (Avellino, Barletta-Andria-Trani, Brescia, Como, Foggia, Pisa, Prato and Rome). Empty bottles of high quality wines were gathered from restaurants, and refilled with fake wine, then marketed on a big online auction platform. The wines were sold in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States, often ending in the glasses of unaware customers of wine bars and catering services. This action is part of operation OPSON IX. Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3) coordinated OPSON IX, facilitated the information exchange and provided technical and analytical support to the participating countries. Europol’s IPC3 is co-funded by the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) to combat intellectual property crime.

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4760208496?profile=RESIZE_400xIGFS, Queens University Belfast working with ABP have analysed 413 fraud reports in the beef supply chain between 1997 and 2017 .published in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and HorizonScan to determine their overall pattern.  Counterfeiting was the most common type of fraud in the beef industry; it accounted for 42.9% of all reports documented. When reports were classified by area in the supply chain in the report occurred, 36.4% of all cases were attributed to primary processing, of which 95.5% were counterfeiting cases. Counterfeiting included products manufactured/packed on unapproved premises, or without appropriate inspection or documentation, as well as products issued with fraudulent health certificates.

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With news of scams relating to the COVID-19 pandemic emerging on an almost daily basis, it is imperative that companies maintain and even step up efforts to secure their brands.

4552592058?profile=RESIZE_710xThat’s the message from the UK’s cross-industry Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) in its latest annual report, which says that while business may be struggling to contend with the coronavirus emergency “they more than ever need their brand protection workforces to help protect consumers and their company’s vital asset.”

“Criminal counterfeiters are in manufacturing overdrive,” says ACG director general Phil Lewis, adding they are working overtime to manufacture and stockpile counterfeits, ready to sell them once the heath crisis abates.

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The outbreak of the Coronavirus has offered an opportunity for fast cash as criminals exploit shortages of genuine products and the anxieties of the public. Europol has just published a report highlighting examples of counterfeit or sub-standard products sold during the corona crisis, which pose a real threat to public health and safety. People who buy these fake products have a false sense of security, while they are in fact left unprotected against the virus. Europol is currently supporting several operations across the EU to combat the distribution of counterfeit and sub-standard goods during the COVID-19 pandemic. This involves the intensified monitoring of online platforms in order to possibly tackle online Coronavirus-related crimes. Co-operation with private industry stakeholders is also a crucial aspect in the work Europol is transacting in an attempt to counteract the threat in this area. Whereas the report focuses on problems in the health sector, it could also have implications for the Agri-food sector as well. 

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According to the first EU-wide intellectual property crime threat assessment from Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), most criminal activity involving counterfeiting is carried out by increasingly professionalised organised crime networks, which can reap large profits while running relatively few risks.

Food and drinks remain highly popular items for counterfeiters, with the EU consistently emerging as a major destination market for counterfeit food and drinks. Detected counterfeit food products include baby milk powder, stock cubes, cheese, coffee, olive oil and pasta. Several of these goods have been found in groceries and supermarkets, illustrating that they also infiltrate the legal supply chain. As the counterfeit goods are almost always of substandard quality and produced in unhygienic environments, they can pose a serious risk to the health and wellbeing of consumers. In some cases, counterfeit food has even been found to contain dangerous or hazardous ingredients. Law enforcement authorities regularly detect other types of counterfeit goods alongside counterfeit food and drinks, highlighting how organised crime groups are frequently involved in trading an ever wider range of different counterfeit goods. In general, there appears to be an overall professionalisation of the organised crime groups involved in food counterfeiting.

Besides food, counterfeit alcoholic beverages pose a considerable risk to EU consumers. Spirits and wine are especially popular goods targeted for counterfeiting by organised crime groups. They frequently place cheap wine in bottles containing fake expensive wine labels, sometimes even adding pure alcohol on counterfeit spirits. Production methods have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with some organised crime groups operating their own production lines, including the packaging and labelling of the product. Another method is to use legitimate production lines one day a week or month for the production of counterfeits.

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EUIPO 2017 is a situation report that establishes that organised criminal groups are involved in IPR crime. It also finds that EU-based criminal gangs involved in distributing counterfeit goods rely predominantly on manufacturers based abroad, but then organise importation, transportation, storage and distribution of the counterfeit goods within the EU. The majority of counterfeit goods come from China: the development of the Silk Road and the corresponding increasing use of rail and maritime transport between China and the EU support also new threats in the IPR crime landscape. 

The report also looks at the falsification of certification schemes such as organic, and the value of falsely labelled geographical indication products e.g. PDOs. Most commonly affected products are wine, spirits, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Read more details at: Headlines on Europol report on counterfeiting

Read the report at: EUIPO 2017 on counterfeiting

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