The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has led to a slump in the production of counterfeits in China. However, as law enforcement agencies and anti-counterfeiting service providers were also not performing as usual, there are warnings of new risks for brand owners.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in China also significantly affects the production, trade, and monitoring of counterfeits. This was reported by the trade magazine World Trademark Review (WTR), based on sources in Chinese counterfeiting circles.

Apparently, the production of counterfeits had come to a virtual standstill in February. A manufacturer and trader of counterfeits reported that virtually the entire counterfeiting industry based in China was affected. For one, factories had been closed and employees were not able to come to work. In addition, it had sometimes been temporarily impossible to procure the materials needed for production. As a result, the production and shipment of counterfeits has been delayed or has even come to a complete standstill at times.

The sale of counterfeits has also declined significantly, both in stationary retail and on the Internet. Many shops throughout China remained closed, and fewer online orders were placed as well. Shipments that had already been commissioned were delayed, in some cases considerably, for example when the delivery of medical items was a priority.

However, the work of Chinese law enforcement agencies and trademark protection service providers is also affected by the coronavirus outbreak. A spokesman for a Chinese IP company described that many investigators and informants are not yet back to work as usual. In addition, authorities were pursuing other priorities: “Many enforcement authorities have been assigned to assist with quarantine work”, it was said. And those checks that did take place primarily focus on counterfeit face masks.

As the situation in China is increasingly back to normal, however, it is to be expected that counterfeit production will resume as well and become a threat for brand owners. Meanwhile, trademark protection authorities worldwide are limiting their work. Recently, for example, the Malaysian Patent Office closed, the EUIPO extended deadlines, and several European patent offices announced delays and longer processing times, including the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA).

Sources: WTR, EUIPO, Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia, DPMA