The coronavirus crisis is boosting the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit items

Between the harmful effects for the European economy that covid-19 has had, there is also the proliferation of counterfeit items, many times specifically related to the pandemic and its consequences, such as medical devices and electronic items, the latter affected by the shortage of semiconductors caused by the impact of the virus on factories and commercial chains. The estimated value of these copies and pirated objects is not negligible: it is estimated that in 2019 they totaled 119,000 million eurosup to 5.8% of imports from the European Union (EU).

According to the latest joint report by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), in around 2020 66 million counterfeit items, compared to 76 million in 2019, when the tremendous trade disruptions that rocked the first year of the pandemic were not experienced. In addition, explains the text, seizures in 2020 could be affected downwards by the “additional difficulties encountered by the police and customs authorities in applying the usual controls & rdquor; because of covid-19. These agencies also detect that intellectual property crimes “increased dramatically during this period & rdquor;.

before the originals

Thus, to the categories of products that usually interest counterfeiters (luxury clothing and accessories, tobacco, toys) is added a growing interest of criminals in “electronic or electrical devices, mobile phones and components”, some of which are illicitly manufactured ” even before the genuine items are available for sale & rdquor ;, due to the great interest they generate. In this sense, Europol and EUIPO warn that these criminals can take advantage of the growing shortage of chips to replace them with “counterfeit semiconductors, such as diodes & rdquor;.

As for fake pharmaceuticals, it has been detected that “criminal groups are counterfeiting an increasingly wide range of drugs & rdquor;, and that they “continue to take advantage of opportunities that arise due to the pandemic & rdquor; , such as the illicit manufacture of copies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks. European agencies point out that although a good part of these goods come from outside the European Union (EU), there are also cases in which they are manufactured in illegal laboratories located on Community territory. What else, It has been detected that the sale of these pharmaceuticals is shifting from physical outlets to digital marketplaces“such as online pharmacies and widely used social media platforms & rdquor;.

increasing sophistication

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Among more traditional products often copied, the report highlights the growing sophistication of criminals in certain categories. In beverages, for example, it has been found that counterfeiting “is increasingly professional and sophisticated”, in some cases with “a complete business model that covers the entire supply and distribution chain”, with centers in the EU “what fill empty bottles genuine and counterfeit alcoholic beverages. It was also found that, in the tobacco sector, “modern and professional production facilities closer to their destination markets” are being put in place.

According to Europol and the EUIPO, in addition to the dangers to consumer health associated with the use of clandestinely manufactured products, the consequences of piracy and counterfeiting are devastating for the European economy. In a calculation made for the period 2013 and 2017, these agencies calculate that the loss of sales in the EU for these reasons amounts to more than 83,000 million euros per year, which has generated total loss of revenue taxes of approximately 15,000 million and the disappearance of 671,000 jobs.