Authorities in numerous countries seize millions of counterfeit toys, while German customs stop thousands of fashion fakes. Apple acts against fakes sold on social media; and IT manufacturer Cisco is suing alleged counterfeiters.

International blow against millions of counterfeit toys
Fake toys worth more than 16 million euros were seized by authorities worldwide with operation LUDUS, organized by Europol and supported by OLAF and EUIPO. The around 5 million counterfeits confiscated included items such as toy cars, board games, and dolls. As was now released, investigators from 24 countries1 conducted more than 4,700 inspections between October 2020 and end of January 2021, to identify counterfeit toys around the Christmas holidays. The counterfeits apparently looked deceptively similar to the originals but posed a health risk, as sample tests showed, authorities report. For example, about 5,000 plastic toys from Spain contained toxic chemicals, and about 2,800 dolls seized in Italy and 8,000 toy cars from Belgium posed a choking hazard. “Thanks to Operation LUDUS, we have successfully taken out of circulation millions of toys which were not only unsafe but ripped off legitimate brand”, says Catherine de Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. Investigators have so far arrested 11 people and initiated 125 legal proceedings. Investigations are ongoing in several countries.

1 Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States

Thousands of fashion fakes seized in Germany
German customs investigators secured counterfeit brand-name clothing in several operations. Close to the Austrian border, officials seized around 4,700 counterfeit tracksuits worth around 780,000 euros, bearing three international trademarks. The fakes originated in Turkey and were packed in a total of 100 boxes, authorities said. In Lower Saxony, authorities stopped further counterfeits worth more than 15,000 euros in a postal shipment. Among them were for example fake belts as well as designer shoes. A man had ordered the goods online from the USA, but the appearance and packaging of the items made customs suspect that they could be counterfeit, according to a spokesperson of the Osnabrück main customs office. This suspicion was confirmed by the rights holders.

Vast numbers of fake Apple products on social media
Counterfeit Apple-branded products are often sold via social media, according to recent reports. For about a month, cybersecurity firm Ghost Data Team has monitored around 163 vendors on Instagram selling Apple counterfeits, such as fake headphones, charging cables, batteries, and USB adapters. The analysis was triggered by a fake charger that an employee had borrowed and which exploded. The result: around 50,000 sales posts garnered around 600,000 interactions. The counterfeits originating from China were apparently sold via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram because of tighter checks on online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, according to the information. To remove the illegal products, Apple e.g. employs its own team. The company reports having deleted more than one million counterfeits from online marketplaces in 2020, including from the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.

Cisco sues alleged counterfeiters from China, USA
The US-American IT manufacturer Cisco is suing three US companies, one Chinese company and 50 individuals in the USA, claiming that they produced counterfeit Cisco-branded networking products in China, imported them to the USA, and/or sold them there, including sales to public-sector customers. According to Cisco, the defendants misled customers into believing they were receiving “factory sealed” genuine products. In the lawsuit, Cisco also refers to a raid in August 2020, during which Chinese authorities seized around 1,200 counterfeit Cisco products at one of the accused companies. These included counterfeit switches, routers, wireless controllers, power supplies, and transceivers, as well as about 500 fake labels, eight rolls of fake Cisco security labels, and 50 illegally marked boxes. In 2019, the manufacturer Cisco had announced a stronger cooperation with trading partners to combat counterfeiting and gray marketing.

Sources: Europol, OLAF; BR, Hauptzollamt Osnabrück; Bloomberg, Macwelt; Law Street, Securing Industry