The online trade in fake parts has greatly increased the world over due to the pandemic. The latest indication comes from Daimler, which says it confiscated over 1.7 million counterfeit Daimler products in 2020.
Counterfeit products are not only illegal but they also endanger the health and safety of car drivers and other road users. Daimler is continuing its efforts to combat product counterfeiters with even more intensive measures, the focus above all being on safety-related products such as fake brake discs or wheels.
According to Florian Adt, head of Legal Product Intellectual Property, "Over 1.7 million counterfeit Daimler products were confiscated in 2020. We initiated and supported over 550 raids by the authorities. This is a slight increase compared to the previous year – despite the challenges posed by the pandemic." Owing to the worldwide lockdown, numerous raids had to be postponed, many local courts were temporarily not sitting.
Higher margins in auto parts than drugs
The product pirates invest a tremendous amount of criminal energy in this trade, and according to a report by the trade association Unifab often achieve higher margins here than with drugs. In many cases the goods sold by organised counterfeiters are produced in inhumane conditions without any consideration for environmental standards, workplace safety or human rights. To non-experts, counterfeit parts may look very little different from genuine parts, but in most cases they are of inferior quality and do not meet even minimum legal standards. They therefore represent a significant risk to the wellbeing and safety of customers.
In 2020 the online trade increased significantly owing to Corona. This made this distribution channel even more interesting also for counterfeiters. Florian Adt says, "We have adapted our brand protection strategy and increased our activities to combat counterfeiting in online trading. All in all, we were able to have 138,000 fake products removed from online platforms. This is around three times as many as during the same period before the pandemic."
Brand protection strategy
The company’s Intellectual Property Enforcement unit has a global presence and works closely with both the Customs authorities and the law enforcement agencies. The brand protection strategy is based on the three pillars of ‘Detecting, Attacking and Preventing’.
The brand protection experts inspect suspicious products on online platforms or at trade fairs around the world in order to track down counterfeiters. Typical alarm signals are a conspicuously low price, anomalies in product quality, or goods being sold by dubious online sources. The aim of the worldwide raids with local authorities is the large forgery networks and the dismantling of their production and distribution structures. Other measures include criminal proceedings, injunctions or actions for information and damages.
The brand protection team cooperates closely with Customs and police also when it comes to prevention. In training sessions and with information materials, they raise awareness of the safety risks and help others to distinguish genuine parts from fakes. In so doing, the team is also contributing to sustainability – not only in terms of safety, but also with respect to human rights and environmental protection.