ICCE celebrates people who are on the front line fighting the sale of counterfeit goods on World IP Day

The Imaging Consumables Coalition of Europe, Middle East and Africa (ICCE) takes pride in the work it does around the world to protect consumers and reduce the sale of counterfeit goods.  

To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day, ICCE has interviewed experts on the front line of the fight against the sale of fake imaging supplies, a market which is now thought to be worth more than €1.6 billion.

Working with law enforcement to secure prosecutions

By creating innovative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and major brands around the world, ICCE has been able to stop the sale of thousands of illegal products.

Valerie Whitelaw, Brand Protection Manager for Corporate Security at Xerox, is responsible for protecting the company’s brand around the world, and in recent months has worked with police teams in Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico and Turkey to disrupt the sale of illegal goods.  

“I can never plan my days in advance because every day I speak to police forces and customs officials from around the world” Whitelaw told ICCE. “What I love about this work is the variety. It’s a constant challenge because you always need to be flexible. What works in Germany will not be effective in North Africa, so we have to adapt.”  

Working together to create innovation 

Whitelaw first worked with ICCE more than a decade ago when the coalition decided it wanted to find new ways to identify illegal supply chains.  “Working with ICCE has significantly improved our success rate on raids” she said.  

ICCE members follow a strict code of conduct to ensure they don’t breach any competition rules. The association helps organisations exchange information about fake products and raise awareness of the problems these items cause consumers.  

“Counterfeiters rarely focus on making one brand of product, so when I come across one of my colleague’s items on a raid I know I can easily share that information” Whitelaw said.  

“The authorities in different countries know about ICCE. They know that our coalition ensures they can make a bigger seizure on raids. Counterfeiting is a multi-million-dollar business and by working together we are able to protect hundreds of jobs.” 

Defending consumer rights online 

ICCE also works closely with experts in the field to protect the rights of vulnerable consumers.

Sharon Penketh, disruption officer with the National Trading Standards eCrime Team has been involved in this innovative partnership. 

“I’ve been working with brands to target the suppliers of counterfeit goods on Facebook or Instagram” she told ICCE. “We’ve seen a big rise in this type of crime.” 

Operation Jasper, a multi-agency campaign is a collaboration between major brands and law enforcement and has seen more than 90 warrants executed in the last two years.  

“Working together we’ve been able to take down more than 10,000 URLs” she said. “We’ve also issued hundreds of warnings and cease and desist notices.”  

ICCE has been working closely with Penketh in recent months, after members noticed a significant increase in customers falling victim to helpline scams. “We know that scammers are inserting their phone numbers into real Google search results for major brands’ helplines” Penketh said.  

“Vulnerable people searching for assistance on how best to fix their printers were being tricked into calling a scammer’s number and then handing over their bank details. One victim was kept on the phone for four hours and lost hundreds of pounds as a result.”  

Thanks to an investigation conducted by ICCE and the eCrime team, the scammer’s fake websites, social media accounts and numbers were removed from legitimate Google search results. 

“Working with ICCE to stop this scam was quite emotional for me” said Penketh “particularly because of the audience they were targeting.  

It was a great collaboration between brand and enforcement because we were both passionate about disrupting the distress it was causing to UK consumers.  

We know that fake goods fund organised crime such as terrorism, child exploitation, human trafficking and drugs. Some of the conditions that the people who make these products are forced to work in are inhuman. 

The sale of counterfeit goods causes real harm to the reputation of some of our leading manufacturers and can be detrimental to innovation and innovators across the globe and I feel I am making a real difference.”