Here is a brief overview of the recent Interpol IP Crime Conference in London and the Global Anti Counterfeit Summit in Amsterdam September 17th – 22nd 2016.
Interpol IP Crime Conference – Guild Hall London
This was truly the biggest industry event that I’ve been to and really showed the global impact of IP crime. The event had approximately 650 people in attendance and was translated live into 5 different languages by a small army of translators. The audience was made up of a good mix between rights holders, law enforcement and solution providers which made for a great exchange of issues and ideas. The dinner hosted at the historic Honourable Artillery Company was a great opportunity to network with people from all over the world.
The problem has got much worse
It was clear to everyone in the audience the the problem of Counterfeit and Grey Market has gotten much worse in the past 2 years. Presentations regularly mentioned a 3X increase since 2014 from $600 Billion to $1.7 Trillion globally. This is no surprise to folks in the industry but it may shock those who think they’re unaffected by these crimes.
Other interesting statistics were that its estimated that 5% of all imports to the EU are counterfeit and that in 2015 there were 30 Billion illegal downloads.
Most consumers are currently unaware that many of the products they see in stores are or could be counterfeit and continued consumer education is going to be part of helping the brands.
Customs Cant Stop Everything
Customs can only do so much and the message was that the private sector must provide their own investigators to help fight the crimes they’re facing.
Live Stream Copies
One of the newest trends in IP crime is ripping live streams to create offline content and rebroadcasting live events on other unlicensed channels.
Carriers Can Help
ICC-BASCAP is starting to work with the major shipping carriers to help them identify if they’re carrying counterfeit or grey market products. The main angle for this approach is the safety of other passengers, cargo and the transport itself. Mislabeled dangerous cargo carried unknowingly and unmonitored has the potential to cause serious accidents and loss of life.
Global Anti-Counterfeit Summit
This was a 2 day event in Amsterdam for much smaller and more focused group of brands and solution providers. The format was open presentations by industry experts and prearranged one on one sessions as requested. There were about 40 people in attendance split between legal, brand owners and service providers.
The presentations by Trunki and Mercedes Benz were fantastic. They focused on very different aspects of the challenges faced by the brands and were very interesting case studies that would apply to anyone selling branded products.
The Trunki presentation told the story of a brand that was let down by the patent and trademark system and highlighted why there really needs to be some form of patent reform. They took what to you and I would be a clear case of design patent infringement to the High Court and actually lost. Its hard to understand this High Court decision but highlights the challenges faced by brand owners when pursuing infringement cases.
Clearly this was very expensive in both actual dollars and resources but the company needed to defend its IP and continues to fight within the bounds of the decision.
The Mercedes Benz case study was one of defending against product liability and ensuring the safety of Mercedes Benz cars. It was made very clear that the failure of counterfeit automotive parts can have life threatening consequences. The thing that was apparent with this presentation was how seriously MB took its brand protection and how the company and brand protection team were committed to protecting MB from the liability of counterfeit product to ensure the safety of their customers. Saving lives was their driving force and this would shine through in their commitment to the problem.
Many other brand protection teams could learn from the approach taken by MB to build an effective brand protection program that really went after the problem and produced real results. Of all the programs I’ve seen recently this was one that clearly stood out as real, aggressive and effective.
Securikett Dinner Sponsor
Werner Hon the CEO of Securikett gave an address at dinner as a sponsor of the event. The speech was very subtle but gave a clear message to the brand owners. If you want to help fight this global problem you have to actually allocate real resources and budget to protecting your brands. As solution providers we see many brand protection teams that are just check boxes for the brand and have no budget or mandate to tackle the real problems. They talk about how bad things are for the brand, how big the problem is and how something should be done, but are unable to sell their role seriously internally within their own company. Without buy in from the C Suite executives, there is no way they are going to be able to make any serious impact in the fight against IP crime.
From a service provider perspective the event was dominated by the online monitoring companies that seem to be driving the conversation right now. These companies can identify potential problems in online market places and do a phenomenal job of finding potential sales of counterfeit or grey market products. The challenge they have is overcoming the perception of just playing Whack-a-Mole with the marketplaces without doing any permanent damage to the counterfeiters or gray market traders. At some point they need to identify the supply to more permanently disrupt the sale of infringing products. The term Whack-a-Mole is now regularly used to describe the state of the industry when it come to the big market places. The current e-commerce environment is especially efficient at allowing the bad guys to deal with the takedowns and bounce right back as if nothing happened. The reason that the problem has grown 3x since 2014 is that no one is doing any permanent damage to the fraudulent supply chain allowing the business of counterfeit and grey market to continue unhindered by the current efforts of the brands.