Swimming among counterfeits: anti-counterfeiting solutions in the Greek islands

When rights holders think of brand enforcement in Greece, they think of the Greek islands. Counterfeiting increases noticeably in summer – partly in terms of volume and sales points, but primarily in terms of visibility. Brand owners, managers and their staff witness the problem for themselves when they are trying to relax on holiday, given the numerous shops selling counterfeit goods on the islands.

How best to tackle this problem is not an easy question to answer and has been the subject of much debate for brand owners. While their preferred option would be to conduct shop raids and mass seizures, this is far from the standard procedure.

The scattered nature of the Greek islands is a key reason for this. In contrast to the mainland, the islands are not easily or quickly accessible, increasing transportation and sometimes accommodation costs. In addition, the police are not always available or willing to undertake anti-counterfeiting actions, since they have to deal with a wide range of incidents resulting from the summer influx of tourists. Moreover, the target islands are mainly small communities, where news travels fast - one raid on a shop can frustrate all other planned actions, since other shop owners will then be warned and conceal their infringing stock.

Taking this into account, police raids on island tourist shops tends to result in the seizure of a moderate quantity of counterfeits which triggers a criminal proceeding that usually requires several witness appearances, incurring disproportionate transportation costs and appearance fees. The initial deterrent effect on the local community dissipates after a couple of days and the concealed infringing stock is on display again soon thereafter.

Some brand owners do not hesitate to dedicate a reasonable budget to such projects, achieving impressive results. Hunting down every single infringer sends a truly deterrent message to the market, forcing counterfeiters to abandon their businesses. However, in times of austerity, budgetary restrictions take precedence and IP counsel need to give brand owners better results at lower costs.

Addressing counterfeiting in Greece is not a purely a seasonal issue. A handful of summer raids cannot be expected to have a long-lasting market effect unless a winter project is deployed or actions are taken over the year sufficient to produce results for next year’s season. However, any brand protection programme focusing on the Greek islands should include the following:

  • The gathering of full intelligence on the targeted island(s) in order to decide on the best action to take in each case;
  • An evaluation of which targets to raid, based on the investigation report - raids should always be planned against major market players;
  • Civil action seeking interim measures targeted at most shops, as well as the filing of a main legal action to request damages; and
  • Cease and desist letters, which may have surprising effects, particularly if recipients take into account criminal and/or legal action against neighbouring shops.

A quick settlement, together with payment of the settlement fee, is always desirable. The goal of managing a self-financing anti-counterfeiting project is feasible and could bring about impressive results for brand owners. At the same time, trying to collect further intelligence on wholesalers can lead to massive raids and seizures, and even result in the dismantling of significant counterfeiting networks.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

Unlock unlimited access to all IAM content