The battle against counterfeiters has been going on for a while now. Companies who have their goods counterfeited have invested heavily in sophisticated tech solutions, the internet of things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to authenticate products. Furthermore, companies rely on enforcement bodies, under the guidance of their IP attorney, to conduct search and seizure operations in order to seize counterfeit goods. The intention of seizing counterfeit goods is to remove them from the market and to get them destroyed. Affected companies use the services of attorneys to prosecute sellers and manufacturers of counterfeit goods, as well as to block access to websites that sell counterfeit goods online.

The importation of counterfeit goods globally is estimated to be worth nearly half a trillion US Dollars a year. This is a very significant figure as it highlights the potential losses in profits that could be suffered by the rightful owners.

The year 2020 has seen the COVID-19 outbreak, which is a problem on its own. However, to make matters worse, consumers have had to try and deal with the harse life threatening consequences of COVID-19 as well as to be on the look-out for counterfeit goods.

As the WHO has recommended that nations, inter alia, adhere to social distancing measures, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, we saw an increase in consumers resorting to e-commerce platforms to purchase essential products. A number of countries also adopted restrictions of movements of people with the aim of slowing down COVID-19 infections on citizens. The most counterfeited essential products included, inter alia, personal protective equipment (face masks and face shields) and hygiene products.

Criminals are taking advantage of the high demand for personal protection and hygiene products by flooding the market with counterfeit products such as low quality facemasks, substandard hand sanitizers, substandard and non-functional testing kits and artificial soap. African countries are unfortunately bearing the brunt of these criminal acts as the African continent has some of the poorest citizens in the world.

We have seen countries such as Tanzania focusing their resources in conducting search and seizure operations solely focussed at essential goods such as personal protection and hygiene products. This act by the Tanzanian enforcement agencies has been a very positive response to deal with the criminal life-threatening activities of counterfeiters during COVID-19.

The option available to a brand holder in order to combat counterfeiting during this critical time is to identify the counterfeiters and to rid the markets of their goods as soon as possible, with the assistance of an IP attorney. A number of African enforcement agencies are still operating within their borders and we can assist with the lodging of complaints in order to have the goods removed from and ultimately get them destroyed.

Originally published in Cape Times, IOL and 24/7 News.Africa