GENEVA — Representatives from major industrial sectors, including textiles, apparel, footwear and luxury goods, are to meet Oct. 3 with global customs and law enforcement officials at Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France, to formulate a strategic plan to combat the growing multibillion-dollar-a-year counterfeit problem.
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“Our objective is to raise awareness and create a strategic plan to fight this kind of crime,” said Erik Madsen, Crime Intelligence Officer at Interpol.
During a two-day conference here on anticounterfeiting, Doris Moeller, Secretary General of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, a multi-industry umbrella organization, said 5 to 8 percent of world trade consists of counterfeit goods. In 2001, world merchandise trade totaled $5.9 trillion, according to the World Trade Organization.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Group, a new expert body of about 20 members set up in July, is to facilitate investigation of counterfeit crimes and to coordinate and take some direct-action initiatives, said Madsen in an interview.
Besides representatives from major industries and anticounterfeiting groups, the new grouping also includes officials from the U.S. Customs Service, the European Union and customs and police officers from across the world. It also includes experts from global agencies such as the World Customs Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Madsen said the global agenda has changed in the last year, and investigations into organized crime involved in counterfeiting and a whole range of other activities, including trafficking in arms and drugs, must also look into the international nature of terrorism.
“We have to link and globally create a new awareness that the more stakeholders we have, the more intelligence we can have,” he said. “Of course, you can’t share everything, but at least the willingness to render international cooperation — that’s basic.”
Madsen said the problem of combating international crime can’t be solved alone by police officers, industry or regulators.
“We need modern thinking here,” he said. “We need a multiagency approach.”
Moeller said that in 2001 in the EU, a total of 95 million counterfeit items were intercepted by authorities, valued at $2 billion. This included 4.7 million clothing items and accessories, involving 340,000 sportswear articles, 1.7 million ready-to-wear articles and 2.6 million clothing accessories, such as bags and sunglasses, as well as 376,000 pairs of socks.
Benjamin L. England, regulatory counsel with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told delegates that security, like quality, must be built into the brand or product.
“You cannot simply slap an anticounterfeiting or antitampering technology onto the product and think you have protected the brand,” he said, adding that such technologies are a piece of the security puzzle, but stressed, “you must create and patrol the universe.”
But anticounterfeit technology executives admitted that even the most sophisticated devices are normally broken within six to nine months by counterfeiters.
However, Joseph Pleshek, security manager with Appleton security products, Appleton Wis., said anticounterfeit and tampering technologies “are just beginning to take off as companies look to put preventative measures in place.”