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MILAN — The constant increase in counterfeiting and organized criminal activities both in the physical world and on the Web should spur the European Union to strengthen its measures against them, said speakers at the annual assembly of Indicam, a private organization that works with the Italian government to combat counterfeiting.
According to Indicam, the international counterfeiting business grew 1,850 percent from 1994 to 2011, causing the loss of about 270,000 jobs globally, about 46 percent of the total jobs lost in the European Union.
“Counterfeiting hits companies focused on innovation and creativity,” said Andrea Di Carlo, vice general director of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, at the event, held Monday at Teatro Litta here. “Institutions will start an efficient fight against counterfeiting if they understand that this is a problem which doesn’t involve only huge corporations, but also small and middle-sized companies.”
To highlight the enormous impact of counterfeiting on the entire European economy, Di Carlo showed the results of research conducted by the European Patent Office and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market. According to the data, 25.9 percent of European Union citizens are employed in companies with high intellectual property rights, which account for 38.6 percent of EU gross domestic product. In addition, they total 90.4 percent of European Union exports toward non-EU countries.
As underlined by Indicam, 60 percent of total counterfeit items are directed to the EU. Fifty percent of them come from Southeast Asia, China, Korea and Taiwan, while another 35 percent are manufactured in the Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.
According to Indicam, in 2012, Italian manufacturers of counterfeit products posted revenues of 3.7 billion euros, or $5 billion at current exchange. Sales of fashion items, including textiles, leather goods and shoes, accounted for 60 percent of the total. The counterfeit industry operates across the whole country, with peaks in Campania for fashion; Tuscany, Lazio and Marche for leather goods, and northern Italy for watches.
“Our business saw an exponential growth in counterfeiting,” said Mario Persico, president of Assorologi, the Italian association of Italian watchmakers and watch distributors. Persico said recent research showed that, on the Web, 22 percent of the pages dedicated to watches promote counterfeit products, while 70 percent of the research on Google for the most popular medium and high-end watch brands showed results that linked to replicas.
“For the Web, it’s necessary to create community and not only national measures,” said Indicam president Carlo Guglielmi, who also listed the necessity of harmonizing port charges in Europe and regulating the treatment of counterfeited products destined to non-EU countries but transiting through member countries. Guglielmi also highlighted the importance of involving more consumers in the fight against counterfeits.