THESSALONIKI – With the aim of exchanging experiences and enhancing coordinatiοn in the fight against the phenomenon of counterfeiting and copying of commercial products, representatives from six European locations that are part of the ‘European Network of Authenticities’ met in Thessaloniki on Monday to discuss how to best facilitate the network’s course and future actions against counterfeiting and piracy at a local level.
They included Thessaloniki and the island of Mykonos, Sofia and Plovdiv, Madrid, and Banská Bystrica (Slovakia).
The Thessaloniki meeting was attended by representatives of the National Intellectual Property Offices as well as representatives of European countries who discussed the progress of the Network and current actions and examined future moves, as the Network has been constantly evolving since 2020 to promote business practices that protect the local economy between citizens and visitors.
The Executive Director of the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), Christian Archambeau, said that “we celebrate the six certified Authenticities and share information about their experiences with the wider Network” expressing the hope that this will help a sense of community between certified authentic cities, so that they can learn from each other and contribute to a truly European network of certified cities where best practices can be shared and new synergies created.
He also stressed that “counterfeiting and piracy are a threat to our economy. They expose our citizens to low-quality and dangerous goods, such as the counterfeit medical products that flooded the European market during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
However, he added, through our ongoing cooperation, we can understand the problem and work for possible solutions. And with authenticities we can do this locally, starting very low down, from scratch. We can talk to them in their cities of origin. We can explain the matter in their language.
From the Greek side, the general director of Hellenic Industrial Property Organisation (OBI), Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, underlined the great importance of the Authenticities Network for the fight against counterfeiting, adding that “we are proud to participate in this with two important Greek cities: Thessaloniki and Mykonos”.
In a brief report, he said that the Greek government over the last 3 years, has used all its forces and focused its efforts in this fight, having seized more than 285,000 copied items in 2021, while 70 pct of them occured in Northern Greece.
Finally, he pointed out that “the fight against illegal trade is unequal. However, we are positive that our united strength and determination to combat counterfeiting and raise awareness of both the value of Intellectual Property and the damage caused by counterfeiting will ultimately protect creators, inventors, consumers and the economies of the states.”
Representatives of the cities presented their experience from their participation in the Network to date.
From the Greek delegation, the head of OBI’s communication department, Rania Zacharopoulou, referred to the public awareness actions that took place in Thessaloniki successfully, despite the coronavirus quarantine. Banners and posters were posted at bus stops, in administrative buildings and many other public places, informative videos were produced, advertisements placed in the print and electronic press, as well as campaigns on social media. In addition, the “authentic cities” were present at the Thessaloniki International Fair, Christmas 2021, and most recently at the games “ThessTruth Quest: A Living City Game” on April 3, 2022. The panel also included the General Director of the Hellenic Industrial Property Organisation (OBI) Panagiotis Kanellopoulos and the mayors of Thessaloniki and Mykonos, Konstantinos Zervas and Konstantinos Koukas, respectively. Mykonos is currently conducting an advertising campaign in public places, including the island’s airport and town hall. The campaign will intensify during the summer of 2022.
Sofia and Plovdiv collaborated in 2021 with the European Consumer Centre in Bulgaria to launch live activities, as well as on social media actions with the participation of the Enforcement and Education Authorities, as well as the general public.
Banska Bystrica focused on youth. The city organised a school competition (Original vs. Fake – DONT BE A FAKER!) in 2021, which was widely promoted.
Madrid, the latest addition to the network, will launch its own local education and awareness campaigns in the coming months, while planning its participation in the network of other Spanish cities.
Every EU city can become “authentic” and be part of this international Network for a period of two years. Candidate cities must be nominated by the national Intellectual Property Office of the EU member-state in which the city is located and then formally designated at an EU level by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The Network is managed by EUIPO, under the supervision of the EU Intellectual Property Network (EUIPN), which brings together the national and regional Intellectual Property Offices of the EU.
Following Monday’s Authenticities event, the annual EUIPN meeting will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in Thessaloniki.
Christian Archambeau: Fighting counterfeiting is important for economic recovery
Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), EUIPO Executive Director Christian Archambeau expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the programme as it expands with the cooperation of the national intellectual property protection offices. He was also content with the response of both the public and the commercial bodies and the authorities.
He pointed out that the fight against counterfeiting is an important element in the recovery and consolidation of the economy. He said that in times of crisis there is an increase in the phenomenon of piracy and counterfeiting in trade, noting that this occurred at the start of the pandemic crisis, which organised crime used as an opportunity to make money from trade. Finally, he stressed the need to inform the public so people understand that it is better to not buy a product at all, rather than buy an imitation.
Sandris Laganovskis: Expanding the network with at least 10 new cities
The director of the EUIPO International Cooperation Department (ICD), Sandris Laganovskis, in his statements to the ANA, underlined the risks not only for the economy but also for the health of consumers – and especially of children – from the purchase of imitation toys and accessories, electronic devices and spare parts.
Regarding the expansion of the network, he said that at least 10 more cities are waiting for their participation, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus. These cities are in countries that are already members of the network, as well as others that are outside the network.
Panagiotis Kanellopoulos: We plan the participation of other Greek cities
The general manager of the Industrial Property Organisation (OBI), Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, speaking to the ANA, said that the network will be enriched in the future with other Greek cities, citing Heraklion as a possible example. Regarding the participation of Thessaloniki, he underlined the excellent cooperation of OBI with the municipality as well as with Inter-Service Market Control Unit (DIMEA), the police, the port and the customs. He also referred to the great willingness shown by the chambers of the city and the Region of Central Macedonia.
Spyridon Peristeris: Most e-commerce offenders based in northern Greece
Spyridon Peristeris, the head of the Data Management, Statistical Processing and E-Commerce Supervision Department of the Inter-Service Market Control Unit (DIMEA), speaking to ΑΝΑ, referred to the investigations, inspections and enforcement of rules, noting that the headquarters and warehouses of most offenders linked to e-commerce were found in northern Greece.
He reported that more than 50% of the seizures of counterfeit products distributed through e-shops were in northern Greece, a fact which, according to his personal assessment, was attributed to the proximity of the Balkan countries and Turkey. He noted that the confiscation of more than 285,000 counterfeit items in 2021 had placed Greece first in the European rankings in this area. These counterfeit goods were mainly clothing, footwear, toys, perfumes and electronic accessories.
Regarding DIMΕA, he said that it was created shortly before the pandemic to deal with the rampant disregard for the law in this area. Greece was now already ahead of many countries, he added, having adopted good practices that its European partners were inviting it to present so they might act as implementation models. As an example, he mentioned the law that forces the shutdown of websites and removes the URL of any e-shop found to be selling counterfeit products.
Meanwhile, there are strategic plans and actions taken to protect intellectual property, which are included in the Greece 2.0 plan and are part of the Recovery Fund with a respectable amount that will be invested for protecting Intellectual Property and to strengthen the service. Peristeris said that there are plans for three new 3D scanners at the borders, which will help with the inspection of trucks used, among others, for trafficking in people, weapons and drugs.