Counterfeiting is increasingly dominated by organized crime syndicates, a recent analysis by Europol and EUIPO shows. The groups are growing more and more sophisticated – raising a serious problem for consumers, businesses, and authorities alike.

Organized crime groups are responsible for most illegal activities involving counterfeits, according to Europol’s and EUIPO’s recently published Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment 2019. The analysis focuses on key industries seriously affected by counterfeiting, such as vehicle parts, electronics, luxury goods, clothing, and pharmaceuticals.

The crime syndicates’ level of professionalization is growing, going hand in hand with more sophisticated production processes, improved sales structures, and counterfeits that are becoming harder and harder to identify, EUIPO and Europol say. According to the report, organized crime groups are increasingly “controlling the whole marketing process from production, to distribution, to the points of sale, most often under the pretence of legitimacy.”

To increase their productivity, the groups apparently often use resources from other criminal activities to fuel production of counterfeits. According to EUIPO and Europol, specialist workers and laboratories for synthesizing illegal drugs are also used to produce fake pharmaceuticals, for example. This increases the supply of highly specialized counterfeit goods. As a result, distinguishing between original and fake is becoming more difficult for companies, consumers, and law enforcement.

“The market for counterfeit goods remains highly profitable, providing criminals with opportunities to generate huge profits while running few risks,” the threat assessment concludes. In view of the high level of profitability as well as organized crime groups’ continuing attempts to penetrate new markets, a further diversification of counterfeit goods can be expected.

Sources: EUIPO, Europol