Intellectual property rights can help combat illicit trade

Trade of counterfeit goods leads to a loss of investment opportunities and job losses, and can be harmful to consumers.
Trade of counterfeit goods leads to a loss of investment opportunities and job losses, and can be harmful to consumers.
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  • There needs to be collaboration across different sectors, countries, and public and private institutions in the fight against counterfeit goods, says Amanda Lotheringen, of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
  • The protection of intellectual property rights can help drive protection of goods and aligns authorities, manufacturers, and suppliers to do the same, according to Lotheringen.
  • Lotheringen was one of several speakers during a webinar hosted by the CIPC to mark World Intellectual Property Day.

The protection of intellectual property rights can go a long way to help combat illicit trade by ensuring the protection of goods, according to an expert.

Monday, 26 April, marked World Intellectual property Day. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) of South Africa hosted a virtual webinar which shed light on the importance of intellectual property rights in combating illicit trade.

Amanda Lotheringen, senior manager of copyright and intellectual property enforcement of the CIPC noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had led to closer collaboration in the fight against illicit trade. "Collaboration and closer cooperation between different sectors, countries, and public and private institutions is key in our fight against counterfeit goods," said Lotheringen. She added that Covid-19 had changed the ways of working in combating illicit trade.

"The protection of IP Rights is key in driving the protection of goods as well as aligning authorities, manufacturers and suppliers to do the same."

In a statement on the event the CIPC said it is difficult to determine the cost of IP infringements on the SA economy, however a new app, Accurate Reliable Stats may help address the issue.

The CIPC noted that consumers are continuously misled by "sub-standard" and possibly "harmful" products. Trade of counterfeit goods also leads to a loss of investment opportunities and job losses. Lotheringen raised concerns over the sales of fake medicines online, illicit fast moving consumer goods, and tobacco products.

She noted that countries must work together to prevent illegal goods being transported across borders of the continent. "South Africa is the gateway to the rest of Africa. We have to continue to collaborate with African countries - but illicit trade is a global fight," she said. "Our collaborations in South Africa for example with Interpol have increased and have opened many doors to become more effective in enforcement."

Adrian Gavrila, manager of illicit trade prevention at cigarette company Philip Morris South Africa, commented on the importance of global collaboration in fighting illicit trade.

"With regards to illicit trade in tobacco products the ratification of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) FTCT Protocol which was signed by South Africa in 2013 needs to be addressed.

"… The treaty was signed by South Africa almost eight years ago and has yet to be implemented to its fullest potential," he added.

Coordination is being enabled through technology, said Michele Francis Padayachee, GS1 executive at the Consumer Goods Council of SA. "Coordination has become easier with many digital platforms available, and progress is being made in better enforcement in South Africa," said Padayachee.

Last year the council launched an illicit trade hotline, to protect members from illicit or counterfeit manufacturing and trading as well as consumers from non-compliant products, said Padayachee.

Padayachee said that illicit trade can partly be combatted through consumer education. "If we can manage the demand of counterfeit goods, we will make very good strides to shut down illicit suppliers. South African consumers need to help in the fight."

Lotheringen added that it was possible to spot counterfeit goods by their price. "Buy smart, not buy cheap," she said.

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