The Singapore workshop brought together government officials, brand owners, intermediary representatives and trade associations from Asia and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region to explore opportunities for collaboration to prevent the infiltration of counterfeit goods into legitimate trade channels. The workshop built on the BASCAP paper, “Roles and Responsibilities of Intermediaries: Fighting Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Supply Chain”, published in 2015, and focused on four intermediary categories covered in the report – vessel and transport intermediaries, landlords, ecommerce intermediaries and registrars, and registries that control domain names for the Internet.
BASCAP Deputy Director William Dobson set the stage for the one-day workshop in his keynote address, highlighting why BASCAP developed the intermediaries paper and summarizing the findings and recommended best practices outlined in the BASCAP paper.
“Intermediaries are the backbone of modern commerce, but today’s complex, inter-connected global supply chain has created more vulnerabilities to infiltration and exploitation by counterfeiters,” Mr Dobson said. “The BASCAP report was only a first step in identifying these vulnerabilities and suggesting best practices for cooperation between rights holders and intermediaries to more effectively develop and adopt systems that can prevent the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods. This workshop is one of many steps we are taking to bring rights holders and intermediaries together in open and balanced discussions to find solutions.”
Trina Ha, Director of Legal, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) delivered the keynote address. “The digital age has presented tremendous opportunities as well as challenges to right owners, users and intermediaries alike, in today’s knowledge economy,” Ms Ha said. “It is a joint mission for all stakeholders to find ways to collaborate that will help educate the public and engineer solutions that will promote a fair and balanced IP ecosystem for all. In Singapore, IPOS continues to work with the relevant agencies as well as other IP offices to build a robust IP regime, for the greater protection and capitalisation of IP locally and across the region.”
In his opening remarks, INTA CEO Etienne Sanz de Acedo called for enhanced voluntary collaboration and stressed the need for intermediaries to continue taking steps independently and in cooperation with rights holders and governments to stop counterfeiters’ abuse of distribution networks.
“This workshop, the first in a series of conferences to be co-hosted by INTA and BASCAP in 2016, is an excellent example of the type of collaboration that amplify the views of the private sector, leading to actions that weaken the criminal networks that deal in counterfeits,” Mr Sanz de Acedo said. “These workshops will bring the rights holders, intermediaries and government together and raise awareness and understanding of counterfeiting activities on a local, regional and international level.”
More than 20 national, regional and global experts spoke at the workshop, providing a range of perspectives on the issues, but all agreeing on the need for more cooperation between rights holders and intermediaries and pledging their support for this goal.
A session on “Working together to stop the flow of illicit goods across borders”featured several rights holders who described how legitimate shipping channels are used by the counterfeiters to transport their illicit goods. A key feature of the session was a presentation by Nicolas Sartini, Group Senior Vice President of CMA CGM & ANL (Singapore) Pte (Singapore), the third largest transport and vessel company globally. Mr Sartini outlined steps his company is taking voluntarily to address the problem of illicit goods shipped on CMA vessels and summarized the challenges vessel companies face in dealing with these criminal traders.
“CMA CGM recognizes the importance of preventing the shipment of illicit goods on our vessels and believe our company has been at the forefront of initiating steps to control the infiltration of our systems,” Mr Sartini said. “We also believe it is important for our company to work with rights holders to improve our systems further and we applaud the work being done by BASCAP to bring intermediaries and rights owners together to find solutions. We look forward to being part of this process.”
Brand owners echoed this view. “CropLife member companies and other major brand owners ship massive amounts of goods through Singapore and other major ports every day,” said Lawrence Yu, Chairman of CropLife Asia’s Anticounterfeiting Committee. “A partnership among Customs, national police, brand owners, and vessel companies is vital in ensuring a unified front against the flow and trade of counterfeits – and in protecting the integrity of our ports from their impact.”
BASCAP is meeting with several of the major transport companies as a first element of its work to build awareness for the recommendations in its report and to open discussions with intermediaries to identify cooperation opportunities.
“We started with vessel companies as an intermediary channel because they can have such a large impact on the counterfeiters business, and we have been very pleased by the positive response from these companies,” Mr Dobson said. “We appreciate CMA’s leadership on this issue as evidenced by Mr Sartini’s personal participation in the Singapore workshop.”
Matteo Mattei, representing Philip Morris International on the same panel, noted the growing problems of free trade zones (FTZs) being used by criminal networks to facilitate illicit trade.
“The illicit trade of tobacco products is a complex issue which requires continuous joint efforts between the legitimate industry, industry partners, NGOs and governments on a long-term basis,” Mr Mattei said. “The abuse of Free Trade Zones by criminal networks to smuggle illicit cigarettes around the world is growing at a rapid rate and nations with such zones need to take action to ensure stricter control by law enforcement agencies, especially Customs, within the Free Trade Zones.”
Landlords and property owners as intermediaries were discussed in a session on“Eliminating the criminal’s place of doing business”, which focused on how to stop the use of retail space, warehoused and other buildings for making or selling illicit goods. “Voluntary programmes involving brand owners and landlords are the most effective way to deny counterfeiters the space to conduct their business,” said Teerin Charoenpot, ASEAN representative of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “However, some countries and cities have initiated or are considering regulations to hold landlords liable for the actions of their tenants and these measures can be a strong deterrent.”
In a session on “Regional and global anti-counterfeiting challenges of the Internet marketplace”, a panel of experts addressed the critical roles played by several types of intermediaries involved in Internet services and ecommerce, including search engines and Internet marketplaces and what can be done to prevent these channels from being misused by infringers.
Louise Delcroix from eBay described the extensive measures taken by the online marketplace in fighting counterfeits. “eBay has led the industry in developing effective anti-counterfeit measures,” Ms Delcroix said. “There are dedicated teams around the globe who respond to the requests of rights owners under the Verified Rights Owner Programme, which allows brand owners to quickly and easily report possible counterfeits or copyright infringements. eBay also has sophisticated technological systems that protect the marketplace.”
BASCAP and INTA will host a series of conferences on the theme “Fighting Counterfeiting through the Supply Chain” on a regional and international level with tailored content for each event. Conference topics include supply chain management, free trade zones, small consignments, counterfeit on the Internet, goods in transit and confiscation of the proceeds of crimes. Upcoming conference locations include Africa, China, Latin America, Europe and the US.