Counterfeiters increasingly produce within the EU

© realstock1/
The new IP Crime Assessment by Europol and EUIPO shows that counterfeiting in the EU is booming, and more and more counterfeiters seem to manufacture fakes within the EU. Also, gangs are increasingly using online channels and are further professionalizing their activities.

Organized crime groups are stepping up their production of counterfeit goods within the European Union, warns the latest Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2022 by Europol and EUIPO. Concerns in particular include a rise in illegal production sites for counterfeit pharmaceuticals; as well as a further increase in the shift of counterfeiting trade to the Internet.

According to the report, counterfeiters are increasingly focusing on digital channels – both for sourcing counterfeits and for distributing them. This trend has also been further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the report says. Next to online marketplaces, fraudsters also make use of social media networks as well as short messaging services. The scale of this illegal online business is also highlighted by Europol’s recent operation, In Our Sites, which saw around half a million websites taken offline and some 22,000 domains seized.

At the same time as e-commerce is on the rise, authorities are also seeing an increase in production of counterfeits within the EU. While most of the seized fakes still originate from outside of the bloc, the production of fakes within Europe as well as the trade in counterfeits on the EU single market are on the rise. Authorities consider an observed increase in seized packaging materials and semi-finished products (i.e. goods where manufacturing is not yet fully finished) as a clear indication of such an intensifying production of counterfeits within the EU. This shows that the production and trade of counterfeits within the bloc is increasing, authorities state.

// Law enforcement seizures indicate that the production of these goods is increasingly taking place within the EU, while the COVID-19 pandemic has further entrenched the criminals’ reliance on the digital domain to source and distribute their illegal goods.

CATHERINE DE BOLLE, Executive Director of EuropoL

Looking at counterfeit pharmaceuticals, the developments are also seen as worrying: Although most fake pharmaceuticals still originate from countries outside of the EU, especially China, Turkey, and Vietnam, there is also a trend toward more and more illegal production facilities for fake medicines that are operating within the European Union. This increase is also a side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the report states: During the pandemic, the demand for medicines, personal protection equipment (PPE), and face masks surged – and so did the respective counterfeits. Pharmaceutical counterfeits are now sold almost exclusively on the Internet: via online platforms, social networks, and the dark web.

Yet, pharmaceutical fakes are far from being the only potentially health-threatening counterfeits – fake cosmetics, food, pesticides, and toys are also booming, official information says. “This new threat assessment report casts new light on the scope, magnitude and trends of counterfeiting and piracy in the EU, and the damage it can cause to consumers’ health and to legitimate businesses,” said Christian Archambeau, Executive Director of EUIPO.

An increasing sophistication of counterfeiting gangs was the focus of the threat analysis by Europol and EUIPO a few years ago, when they published the Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2019. The counterfeiting market was increasingly dominated by organized crime networks, according to one of the conclusions of the analysis back then.

Sources: EUIPO, Europol, WTR

– Advertisement –