British initiative to combat counterfeit trade on social media

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The anti-counterfeiting campaign Real Deal Online attempts to curb the sale of fakes via social media groups. To that end, the British initiative wants to raise awareness of brand misuse among administrators of groups on social media platforms.

In the UK, the new Real Deal Online campaign aims to fight against counterfeiting on social media. Its innovative approach is aimed primarily at the administrators of so-called buy-and-sell groups, i.e. closed user groups on social media platforms used to trade products between private users. Real Deal Online particularly focuses on communications and education on counterfeiting: the program informs group operators about their obligations regarding trademark misuse. Administrators should become aware of their “legal responsibility to prevent the promotion and sale of counterfeit goods and other illicit products within their groups.”

Real Deal Online is a joint initiative of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team (NTSeCT) and the National Markets Group for IP Protection (NMG). In contrast to similar initiatives, the program, which is supported by the British government, is neither aimed at platform operators nor primarily at users of social media platforms. Instead, the administrators of buy-and-sell groups are addressed directly.

These groups often specialize in specific product categories or certain neighborhoods. They follow a simple concept: sellers post ads; interested parties often pick up the goods in person and then pay in cash. Such groups are particularly popular on social networks, especially Facebook. However, since controls against counterfeiting are often neglected in buy-and-sell groups, they are also a popular sales channel for counterfeiters – similar to the messaging application WhatsApp (we reported).

To counter this trend, Real Deal Online is also asking group administrators to accept five simple principles. They commit themselves, among other things, to ban counterfeiting in their groups, to react to notices from rights holders, to report suspicious cases to the authorities, to highlight warnings from the authorities, and to inform group members about their anti-counterfeiting policy. Groups that agree to these terms get permission to use a Real Deal logo.

Following a successful pilot phase, many local UK authorities have now expressed interest in adopting the programme. There is also talk of possibly transferring Real Deal Online to other countries. “Social media can be a force for good making it easier for users to buy and sell goods, however with this can come an increase of counterfeit goods and other illegal products,” said British Intellectual Property Minister Sam Gyimah. “This is why I welcome this initiative.”

Sources: Real Deal, World Trademark Review

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