On 27 and 28 October 2022, representatives from law enforcement agencies and the private sector met in Rome to share their expertise in the common fight against intellectual property crime. 400 experts from law enforcement agencies, private entities as well as key institutional partners gathered in this year’s edition of the Europol Intellectual Property Crime Conference organised in partnership with the Italian Guardia di Finanza and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC).
The annual event was launched in 2017 to gather law enforcement and private sector entities involved in the fight against intellectual property crime and provide a platform for public-private cooperation and innovation in this joint cause. After two years of online meetings, this 2022 edition responds to a growing need for an in-person gathering and networking among the attendees representing law enforcement agencies from 45 countries as well as 140 private entities.
Counterfeiting and piracy continue to pose a serious threat to the health and safety of consumers, as well as to the European economy. Imports of counterfeit and pirated goods reached EUR 119 billion in 2019, accounting for 5.8 % of all goods entering the European Union. The latest Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment, produced jointly between Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), reveals that the distribution of counterfeit goods has been thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Deputy Executive Director of Europol, commented:
Law enforcement and the industry community are required to adapt rapidly when facing the challenges presented in crises. Be it fake vaccines and medical devices, the pressure on the automotive spare parts market due to supply chain interruptions, or the distribution of counterfeit pesticides, intellectual property crime shows to be particularly reactive to crises. In light of these challenges, the importance of an effective public-private partnership is ever-growing. All major Europol operations targeting intellectual property crime involve close cooperation with private partners.
Lieutenant General Giuseppe Vicanolo, Deputy General Commander of the Guardia di Finanza added:
The importance of the interests involved in the protection of intellectual property and in the fight against related economic and financial violations, together with the complexity of the investigations on an international scale, make it necessary to pursue the most effective cooperation among institutions and other actors. Our institution is fully aware of that and will make any useful contribution for these purposes.
Bob Barchiesi, President of IACC remarked:
This conference is a platform for public and private entities to find synergies and solutions in the common fight against intellectual property crime. Our yearly event allows consolidation of partnerships and cooperation among public and private stakeholders. Recent crises have presented new criminal business opportunities for the distribution of counterfeit and substandard goods. Criminal networks involved in IP crime have been highly adaptable in adjusting their business model by shifting product focus and marketing as well as means of transport and routes. The yearly event gives the opportunity to collect useful information from brand owners about possible fraudulent practices and to share it with police bodies and customs.
While the two-day conference centred on challenges in the context of crises, the 55 speakers shed light on further developments observed in recent times. While most counterfeit and substandard goods distributed in the EU are produced outside its borders, the frequent seizure of counterfeit packaging materials and semi-finished products upon import indicates the presence of manufacturing facilities in the EU. Another issue is the laundering of criminal proceeds, which is performed in both traditional and more sophisticated schemes relying on technology, trade-based money laundering, and offshore jurisdictions. These and more key topics will remain the focus of the public-private partnership which is set to convene again in Portugal next year.