Counterfeiting & Seizures

Complex supply channels of counterfeits hinder combating

Packed in lots of small packages and sent via certain reloading points, counterfeits enter international markets unnoticed, which a report from OECD / EUIPO shows. Brand owners want to fight this, but how?

Counterfeits disappear in convoluted supply channels

Packed in lots of small packages, counterfeits are hard to identify.
Online retailing and globalisation mean that goods are shipped on a mass scale all over the world. A welcome opportunity for counterfeiters: They use the complex network of transport routes to ship their counterfeited products into various countries unnoticed.

A report from OECD and EUIPO shows the most common trade routes for counterfeits: Albania, Egypt, Morocco and Ukraine serve as the most important reloading points for shipments to the European Union (EU). Counterfeits most often enter the USA via Panama. Counterfeit products are mainly shipped to Africa via countries in the Middle East, for example the United Arab Emirates.

Two things happen at these reloading points: Firstly, the shipping documents are forged so that the origin of the shipment can no longer be determined. Secondly, the goods, which arrive in large containers, are repacked into lots of smaller packages and newly labelled. Once this has happened, it is almost impossible to find out the source of the counterfeits and plagiarisms or to punish the initiators accordingly.

So-called “buying agents” also play a role in China. As a rule, they are commissioned because a purchase abroad can cause difficulties for the buyer. Problems arise due to strict customs regulations and language barriers, amongst other things, so buying agents purchase products on behalf of their customers and take care of the international shipping. Unfortunately, this makes it possible to cover up both the purchase and delivery of counterfeits.


Support investigators and customs agents


Physical proof of authenticity simplifies the work of customs agents.
Customs agents and brand owners’ investigators might be well aware of the usual transport routes and tricks used by counterfeiters, but fighting them is difficult in practice. Brand owners can be of assistance here! Authorised products need to be immediately recognisable as such by customs agents and investigators, but counterfeits and original products are often impossible to tell apart. By having protective labels providing a traceable product identity, counterfeits and genuine products can be differentiated at a glance.


A clear advantage for customs agents and investigators because this makes it easier to stop the circulation of counterfeits.

Ideally, these security markings are interlocked with an online verification platform. Users such as investigators, customs agents and end customers can quickly and easily verify the security markings and thus the authenticity of a product online. Each check is stored in the system together with information on the exact time and location of the verification. If there are deviations in the checked security marking, this is also saved in the system as it could possibly be a counterfeit.

When the online platform is connected to “IPM Connected”, the digital database of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), it is giving customs agents quick access to important information provided by the brand owner. Detailed market data is thus sent to the brand owner, which serves as the foundation for the communication with customs agents and the deployment of investigators. They can access precise geo-data on the suspicious product checks within the system, allowing them to check counterfeit hot spots in a targeted manner.


Interesting links on this subject

OECD/EUIPO (2017), Mapping the Real Routes of Trade in Fake Goods, OECD Publishing, Paris

Trademark Review article: “Most used counterfeit trade routes revealed as pressure on enforcement authorities continues to rise”

Trademark Review article: “Counterfeit buyers increasingly using Chinese agents that promote sending fakes through “sensitive shipping lines”


Emilie Bargueno, International Product & Market Manager at SCRIBOS

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