Protecting intellectual property against counterfeit goods

What happens when someone uses your intellectual property (IP)?

For some businesses, it means having their content shared online without permission or having a patented process used by another unauthorised party.

For others, particularly those within the retail sector and allied industries, it means having a product physically copied and sold without the brand’s knowledge or permission – known as counterfeiting.

Counterfeit goods can be made for any product, but your business may be at increased risk if your products are high-value or of limited supply.

We know how difficult this can be for businesses given the consequences of counterfeit goods on a brand’s profitability and integrity.

The problem of counterfeiting

Counterfeit goods are imitations of legitimate products that are made to exploit the established value or brand reputation of the original items.

They pose a significant threat to IP and the businesses which own it because counterfeit items can cause loss of revenue and associated difficulties with cash flow and long-term investment.

In addition to direct financial losses due to lost sales, IP infringements of this kind can incur indirect costs as companies spend on anti-counterfeiting measures.

They can also damage the reputation of a brand if counterfeit goods are of poor quality or, in the case of pharmaceuticals or electronics, dangerous to use or handle.

How is IP protected against counterfeiting?

The first step towards protecting a business and its IP against counterfeiting is to ensure the correct legal protections are in place, including:

  • Copyrights – The automatic and exclusive right to own, use and licence certain types of IP, including films, music and web content. It does not require registration but to avoid any doubt it can be registered.
  • Trademarks – A protection for IP relating to your brand, such as a logo or product name.
  • Registration – Registering a design indicates that you legally and exclusively own the appearance of a product, including its packaging and decoration.

Keep as much evidence as possible when you produce a new product and apply for legal protection, where applicable, as soon as you can to avoid potential unprotected infringements.

When counterfeit goods enter circulation, particularly in large volumes, law enforcement agencies play a major role in stopping sales and preventing revenue loss to your business, from seizing forged goods.

What can you do?

Businesses can play an active role in protecting their IP from counterfeiting, with strategies falling broadly into three categories:

  • Register your IP rights where applicable
  • Preventing the creation of counterfeit goods
  • Preventing the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods

To prevent the initial creation of counterfeit goods, consider implementing advanced authentication processes for access to protected information.

To prevent the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods ensure that you have a continued review of the market for any counterfeit products and that you act quickly to enforce your IP rights and prevent such products from circulating the wider market for any prolonged periods of time.

For advice on protecting your IP and combatting counterfeiting, please contact our Intellectual Property Law specialists today.