Fines for buying counterfeits?

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To step up the fight against counterfeiting, a German legal expert now demands penalties for buyers of fakes. Opposition comes from an unexpected source – a business representative instead asks for better communications to raise consumer awareness for the risks associated with fakes.

The legal scholar Prof. Dr. Arndt Sinn of the German University of Osnabrück now demands new measures from the German federal government to protect the country’s economy against knowledge theft and counterfeiting. The legal expert especially focuses on the introduction of civil penalties for consumers who purchased counterfeit products.

Sinn for example criticizes that according to current legislation, buying counterfeits is only punished if it is done for commercial purposes – i.e. if the buyer intends to resell the acquired fakes. However, if counterfeits are purchased for personal use, consumers do not face any penalties. “If you park your car incorrectly, you have to pay a fine of 20 euros. If you buy counterfeit goods on purpose, nothing happens”, explains the legal expert from Osnabrück.

The demand to fine consumers purchasing counterfeits has not met solely positive feedback. Opposition comes for example from Markenverband e. V., an economic association representing around four hundred brand owners, which might seem to be an unexpected source of objection. Dr. Alexander Dröge, responsible for legal matters and consumer policy at Markenverband, thinks that Sinn’s proposal has little prospect of being successful. What is more, he fears that such sanctions could even cause long-term damage to the public acceptance of trademark protection. “We need this acceptance so that we can take action against the actual criminals,” stresses Dröge. In addition, Dröge explains, most consumers do not buy fakes intentionally, but usually fall victim to fraudsters themselves, especially in regard to online sales of counterfeits.

On one thing, however, the brand association expert agrees with Sinn: Many aspects of counterfeiting are underestimated and little known to the public, such as today’s extent of trade in counterfeit medicines or the link between counterfeiting and terrorism (we reported on both).

To act against this, Dröge suggests targeted communications and dedicated measures to raise awareness, which he considers much more important than penalties for consumers. People first have to know about counterfeiting, he explains. “Education is much more effective and better suited as a first step.“

For brand owners, this means they have to get active themselves in order to protect their brands and their intellectual property from misuse. For example using targeted brand protection communications, proactively educating their customers and stakeholders.

Source: FashionUnited

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