LIMA UK assists members on a daily basis with a diverse range of queries relating to licensing. Fortunately, the spectre of counterfeit goods doesn’t come up frequently. However, just recently LIMA was contacted by one of Europe’s leading licensed costume character companies and a long-standing LIMA, David Scott, Managing Director of Rainbow, who had an interesting tale to tell. David informed LIMA that he had just uncovered a growing online cottage industry originating from a factory based in China, which was producing counterfeit children’s costume characters including Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse, and many others, and then selling them on internet-based trading sites such as Ebay to the general public for the UK market. This activity has a serious impact on the brands Rainbow represents and David looked for assistance from government organizations such as Trading Standards with the goal of getting these illegally-made costumes off the market. David was also introduced to a company called ‘Surelock’ who work closely with the UK Border Agency and he invited LIMA along with him to meet them in person at the UK’s Parcel Force depot at Coventry Airport. Interestingly, Coventry airport appears to be the main hub for imports traded through Ebay. Though the vast bulk of such imports are perfectly legal, clearly here was a case of abuse of a legitimate port for the purposes of counterfeit.
Surelock and their subsidiary ‘Detain-UK’ are given a list of products to look for by brand owners such as Nike, Louis Vuitton etc. and any suspect packages that originate from high risk counterfeit -producing countries can be intercepted, inspected and detained right off the lorry even before they get into the Parcel Force depot, a very effective way from stopping counterfeit products getting into the UK market. The costumes have now been added to the products waiting to be destroyed by UK Customs Officers. Stopping illegal goods from entering the UK is a constant battle for UK Customs, but there are companies such as Surelock who provide services in this area. In fact, the process appeared to be much simpler, and the costs much lower, than licensor legal departments often imagine. It can be the fear of escalating costs that slows up anti-counterfeit measures, when in fact modest expenditure can assist brand owners/licensees in preventing direct financial loss and potential damage to IP.
Manchester solicitors and LIMA UK member Gateley’s also has a wide experience in all types of anti-counterfeiting measures–from advising on counterfeit avoidance strategies through to bringing counterfeiters to bear through the courts. They have worked closely with a number of specialist anti-counterfeiting agencies including the Intellectual Property Crime Unit and have strong links to a number of trade mark agents, working with established brands (particularly through the Giftware Association) and those that are relatively new to the game.