UNICRI, in collaboration with the Institute of Centromarca for the Fight Against Counterfeiting (INDICAM), has published a new position paper which summarizes evidence from the recent International Conference on intellectual property (IP) infringement and organized crime.
The Conference, held on the 21st October 2020, was jointly organized by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (Italian Patent and Trademark Office), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), UNICRI and INDICAM. In the newly published report, Mr. Mario Peserico, President of INDICAM, highlights that “the goal of the Conference was to focus on how organized crime is today a prominent player when it comes to IP infringements. The speakers, some of the most valuable and experienced professionals from governments, law enforcement agencies and public institutions, touched many aspects of the relationship between criminality and IP violations.”
The Report outlines the attractive nature of IP crimes for criminal organizations. Ms. Alessia Morani, Member of Parliament and Undersecretary of State at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and President of the National Council for the Fight against Counterfeiting and Italian Sounding (CNALCIS), explains that “counterfeiting today represents an extremely profitable business area for national and transnational organized crime thanks to a market of vast proportions, a widespread distribution network and an evolved illegal business model, which also functions on a technological level.”
Equally, the report analyses how the complex, highly adaptable, transnational nature of organized crime’s modus operandi makes it exceedingly difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate and intercept their criminal operations. Ms. Morani situates this in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, stating that “criminal organizations have demonstrated, once again during the current pandemic, an extraordinary ability to respond to the market and adapt to changes in the national and international context, including through the diversification of their activities, the indissoluble circle between the management of illegal activities and the reinvestment of capital into the licit economy, and the consequent expansion of sources of funding and control over geographic territory.”
In view of the Conference’s findings on the attractive and complex nature of IP crime, a recurrent theme of the report is the need for greater international cooperation between law enforcement agencies and policy makers alike. Ms. Susan Wilson, the United States of America (U.S.) Intellectual Property Attaché to the European Union (EU), speaks positively about the state of cooperation between the EU and the U.S. with regard to the fight against counterfeiting and illicit trade. However, she notes that “there remains scope for even more extensive and sustained EU-U.S. cooperation in the years ahead”, which the Attaché will continue to play an important role in promoting. Susan Wilson underlines that “high-level political commitments and messaging are absolutely key to signalling that this will be taken seriously and appropriate resources dedicated to combating the scourge.”
In the report’s concluding remarks, Mr. Paul Maier, Director of the EUIPO Observatory on IP infringement, outlines four key areas of focus in the fight against IP crime: “adequate modern civil and criminal laws, awareness-raising among decision makers, enforcers, judges and citizens, a determined fight against the biggest infringers [...] and availability of legal offer to make sure the market responds to the needs of the consumers.” He also reiterates the call for greater coordination of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement efforts, restating the crucial importance of “including the fight against IP crime as an enforcement priority for the forthcoming cycle (2022-2025) of EMPACT,” as this would allow European enforcement authorities to mobilize and equip themselves with the right resources to fight IP crime.
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The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute was established in 1968. Within the broad scope of its mandate, the Institute contributes, through research, training, field activities and the collection, exchange and dissemination of information, to the formulation and implementation of improved policies in the field of crime prevention, justice and emerging security threats, due regard being paid to the integration of such policies within broader policies for socio-economic change and development, and to the protection of human rights. UNICRI’s programme on Counterfeiting is based on a long tradition of research in matters of organized crime. Counterfeiting is an important part of the work of the Institute due to the growing interest of criminal organizations in this area.
Counterfeiting is a complex criminal activity involving economic, social and legal elements. Aware of this complexity and of the urgent need of an adequate response, UNICRI developed a specific programme based on a multidisciplinary approach which follows two main pillars of analysis: 1) the fight against counterfeiting as a response to organized crime; and 2) the danger posed by some specific products to consumers’ health and safety.
The Association aims to promote, organize and put in place any initiative which tends to avoid IP rights and products’ counterfeiting, including developing and spreading technologies designed to prevent any counterfeiting activity, and, to grant authenticity certificates as well as security for buyers. Through the study and the detailed analysis of the dangers linked to IP illicit and infringements, the Association, intends to identify trends, solutions and the most efficient and innovative techniques to raise awareness and to increase the protection of IP rights.