WASHINGTON — A group of international partners, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), warned consumers today of the dangers associated with the spread of counterfeit domestic appliances and automotive parts. Law enforcement authorities are increasingly detecting counterfeit electrical appliances, toys and body care products, as well as food, beverages and alcohol.
Fake auto parts, including counterfeit brake pads, tires, suspension components, steering linkages and other accessories, are also universally being distributed and sold to consumers in greater volumes, officials warned.
To combat this rise in counterfeit products, private sector experts from major household and automotive brands, police, customs and enforcement related institutions from across the European Union, as well as major European and international authorities, including the European Commission, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), Europol, the European Anti-Fraud Office, Interpol, ICE's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the World Customs Organization, gathered in Alicante, Spain Nov. 4-6, to share best practices and discuss ways to share resources.
The event, co-organized by the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights and Europol, seeks to help member states develop practical ways to deal with the increasing threat posed to the health and security of shoppers. Counterfeit products also threaten legitimate suppliers, to which damages have recently been estimated by the European Commission to be between five and ten billion euros each year.
"This international forum is extremely important to building relationships, thereby strengthening our ability to attack transnational criminal networks and keep these unsafe products out of the hands of the public," said Lev Kubiak, director of ICE's IPR Center. "Criminal organizations engaged in the international trafficking of counterfeit goods must be dealt with through collaboration by international law enforcement agencies around the globe. Europol and our European police and customs agencies are critical to the success of our efforts. As we continue to work with our international partners, we must also continue to educate the public about the dangers and ramifications of purchasing counterfeit products."
"We are determined to capitalize on the Observatory's unique collaborative platform in order to further efforts between agencies to help member states in their fight against all types of counterfeiting activities," said Paul Maier, director of the Observatory. "Besides fake pesticides or pharmaceutical products, we can now focus, with the support of the European Commission and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on domestic appliances and automotive sectors which also have dangerous consequences for the general public and for our European industry."
"Those behind this serious organized crime are unscrupulous and show a complete lack of concern for the health and safety of citizens," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "These criminals are only interested in their illegal profits, while totally oblivious to the potential injuries or risk to life that can come from sub-standard illicit car spare parts or, for example, kitchen tools that have not undergone health and safety checks."
The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights was established in 2009 to support the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights and help combat the growing threat of IP infringements in Europe. It was transferred by regulation June 5, 2012, to OHIM, which is the official trademarks and designs office of the European Union, headquartered in Alicante, Spain since 1994.
The HSI-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.