The utmost value of Intellectual Property Rights (“IPR”)to the global economy has been much discussed and analyzed in a series of published EU and national economic studies and reports, quantifying both the contribution of IPR-intensive industries to the economic performance and trade, as well as the economic impact of counterfeiting. Corporate and government budget, allocation of human and other resources, integrity of public administration, investments and criminal activities are affected by the unauthorized use of IPR, including trademarks, patent, copyright and designs.
Despite Greece being a rather small market in the midst of an ongoing financial crunch, it comes as no surprise that it has managed to draw the attention of the global IP community that now reaches for more information on the current situation and aggravating factors for the development of economy. An initial approach evidently presents counterfeiting as a blow against the long-suffering Greek economy, which runs already its eighth year of recession. The EUIPO report on “The economic cost of IPR infringement in the Clothing, Footwear and Accessories Sector”(2015)reveals that legitimate industry loses approximately 953 million Euro of revenue annually, corresponding to 18,7% of the sector’s sales in Greece, the EU average being 9,7%. Direct employment losses equal to 19.803 job cuts, associated only with counterfeits manufactured within the EU. When adding damages incurred due to indirect effects, general losses in the clothing, footwear and accessories sector translate into approximately €1,32 billion of lost sales in the EU and24.375 job losses in Greece, a country with an unemployment rate of nearly 25%. We can only assume that the Greek economy, struggling with hard fiscal measures, has its fair share in the loss of€8,1 billion in government revenue (EU28) due to counterfeiting.
Such economic assessments indicate the need to reshape anti-counterfeiting strategies by means of re-prioritizing them. In this context, an efficient IPR strategic planning should focus on the following four directions:
IPR enforcement coordination: Coordination of the various competent agencies (five in Greece) remains the cornerstone of all operational aspects: analysis of intelligence, dissemination of information and operational coordination contribute not only to operational efficiency but also to policy drafting. The appointment of a coordinator at the highest possible level would give the political tone required to intensify anti-counterfeiting efforts and make use of both settled best practices and the existingadequate legal framework.
Police IP department/ IP Public Prosecutor: National police service is in urgent need of a specialized IP department, well equipped to scrutinize and dive into the most importantIP infringement cases. Under the supervision of a dedicated IP Public Prosecutor, valuable data could be mined out from IP criminal cases and infringers would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, terminating the current “soft approach” of judicial practice.
GoodsinTransit: Greece is currently listed as one of the top provenance economies of counterfeit goods, as evidenced by the “Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact” report (OECD and EUIPO, 2016). Greece has made its entry to the listnot as one of the manufacturing countries, but due to its geographical position serving as a gate to Europe. In an attempt to overturn such listing, special attention should be paid to the immediate implementation ofthe much-awaited tool provided for in the recent EU trademark reform package, permitting inspection and seizure of goods in transit and Greek customs authorities should be financially supported and reinforced to play their role in IP protection at the crossroads of three continents and significant maritime routes.
Anti-counterfeiting in touristic destinations:Proliferation of counterfeits in the Greek islands and other summer resorts requires urgent attention, as they address to a wider group of consumers, including both Greek and foreign visitors. Often displayed in small batches per infringed brand, infringing products cannot be easily tackled by IP owners, but requirea well organized plan of action, implemented by the local enforcement agencies and local business communities and aimingateliminatingthe disparaging phenomenon.
Final note: according to OECD statistics, Greece presents the lowest business investment activity in intangible assets and GDP per capital, far behind the US, Norway and its EU peers.There is no doubt that IP could successfully work as an economic development tool for Greece, a country in urgent need of a spur of innovation. Thus,a strong stimulus of IPR-intensive companies, alongwith efficient anti-counterfeiting measures areamong the incentives thatGreece should strive for.
Partner, Head of IP SE Europe