We are in an epidemic of criminality. Combatting it will require skill, judgement and foresight.
So, what’s the immediate outlook for policy, supply chains, enforcement, and geopolitics? These are my takeaways for the unfolding picture:
1. Policy. If we needed reminding, we now know regulating anything on the Internet is complicated! The big, tortuous debate on the UK’s Online Safety Bill makes it unlikely we will see much appetite for new, big legislation anytime soon and this is probably mirrored internationally. Given the diverse range of interests involved, we may be waiting a long time for substantive ecommerce platform regulation.
2. Trade deals. The UK is still negotiating post-Brexit trade deals. We need to see the interests of rights holders protected but also adequate enforcement practices in counterparties. The challenge? IP frameworks in many jurisdictions may be significantly different to our own, so expect major efforts to align practices.
3. Supply chains. Broken supply chains. Disrupted supply chains. Alternative supply chains. We are still in the post Covid recovery phase for the global economy. Taking advantage of disarray, counterfeiting behaviours have boomed. They will not return to previous levels.
4. Mega enforcement? Does sheer scale now matter in enforcement action? Manchester’s Operation Vulcan has already made huge progress in turning Europe’s counterfeit epicentre into a “ghost town”, but we are still evaluating long term impact and dispersal.
5. Resources. Operation Vulcan could be a major “mega” model. But our resources are sharply lacking generally as counterfeiting behaviours shifts online and a tidal wave of small packet transmission pours through our ports.
6. Geopolitical shifts. The tectonic plates of international economic blocks and policies are shifting in their alignment and will continue to do so. But will the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) overcome economic headwinds? I believe so, if on a smaller scale.
7. Zoning in. Geopolitics aside, free trade zone ideas have gained real momentum and are beginning to proliferate worldwide. The problem: criminals are taking advantage of the reduced oversight and governance to operate unhindered.
8. Influencing the influencer. We will fail if we cannot control the anti-counterfeiting debate with the consumer. There is no alternative: the social media era with its raft of influencers needs to be countered with new and better messaging.
9. Colossal upheaval. All the above means the biggest changes are yet to come. Counterfeiting behaviours as above are now at epidemic levels. New and blended threat vectors are emerging worldwide.
Are we prepared in 2023?
ACG represents more than 3,000 brands affected by this influx of fakes into the UK and delivers an international network of information, advice and contacts on all aspects of IP protection. Working with Government and law enforcement agencies since 1980, ACG is focused on providing an effective and sustained response to counterfeiting.
Membership with the ACG is the best way to work with government and enforcement bodies to protect your brand. Our Roadshows and training days help you reach out to police, trading standards and border force officers and tell them about your genuine products.