The US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRC) has become the latest signatory of the historic Declaration of Intent to Prevent the Maritime Transport of Counterfeit Goods (DOI).

The International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) initiative has welcomed the NIPRC’s move to join to the cross-sector initiative which demonstrates commitment by brand owners, major maritime operators and others to address the issue of counterfeit goods being transported internationally in shipping containers.

BASCAP member Meena Sayal of Unilever said: “We are delighted that NIPRC has become the first law enforcement authority to sign the DOI. BASCAP member companies, including Unilever, have been frustrated in seeing that the same transport companies that we use to ship our products around the world are being abused by criminals to distribute fake versions of our products.”

Sophie Peresson, BASCAP Director added: “This latest signing ramps up our collaborative efforts and also advances a key priority of the signatories- to cooperate and collaborate with competent law enforcement authorities in relation to the carriage of counterfeits.”

NIPRC signed the DOI today in Arlington, VA as part of its 10th-anniversary celebrations, joining major shipping companies, brand owners and other signatories to the declaration which was launched in 2016.

IPR Center Deputy Director William Ross said: “The ICE-Led National IPR Center is proud to be a part of the BASCAP Declaration of Intent to Prevent the Maritime Transport of Counterfeit Goods.  Cooperation and collaboration with industry has always been an important part of the IPR Center’s success and as we move forward into our next decade we excited about supporting this initiative.”

Zero-tolerance approach

The DOI is a voluntary and non-binding statement acknowledging the destructive impact of counterfeits on international trade. The Principles of the Declaration include a zero-tolerance policy towards counterfeiting, as well as strict supply chain controls, risk profiling and due diligence checks to ensure maritime operators are not involuntarily working with any entity involved in the trade of counterfeit goods.

In addition to BASCAP, DOI signatories to date include leading shipping companies – Maersk, MSC, APL and CMA CGM; leading freight forwarders – Kuehne and Nagel and Expeditors; and major multinational brand owners – Unilever, Bayer, Procter & Gamble, Chanel, Pfizer, Richemont, Lacoste, Dupont, Philip Morris International, Longchamp, Honda and CropLife.  Other signatories include the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), and ICC’s anti-crime arm Commercial Crime Service (CCS).

Born from a major BASCAP report, Roles and responsibilities of intermediaries in fighting counterfeiting and piracy in the global supply chain, the DOI was a response to growing concerns of BASCAP members about the criminal exploitation of shipping vessels as a channel for transporting large quantities of counterfeit products.  Maritime operators were among the first intermediaries to start working with BASCAP to develop solutions to the infiltration of the supply chain.

On 7 March, the signatories to the DOI launched a set of Know Your Customer best practices and will continue to develop similar guidance pursuant to other principles laid out in the DOI.

The scale of counterfeiting

Counterfeiting is not limited to watches, handbags and luxury goods – products of virtually every kind are counterfeited, from toothpaste and pharmaceuticals to toys and automotive parts. According to a report by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) / European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), trade in counterfeit goods in 2013 amounted to US$461 billion, an 80% increase on the figures from 2008.

A further report commissioned by BASCAP and the International Trademark Association (INTA), estimates the total annual cost of counterfeiting and digital piracy at between US $923 billion – 1.13 trillion, and predicts this could double by 2022 if current trends continue. In total, it is estimated that counterfeit goods account for 2.5% of global trade value.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported that containerized transport of goods accounts for around 90% of total international trade; however, less than 2% of these containers are ever inspected to verify their contents. As such, shipping containers can be easily exploited by those engaging in illicit trade. The industry best practices being developed by the DOI signatories will help to tackle this issue without the need to physically inspect the container.