The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the findings of its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (the Notorious Markets List), which highlights online and physical markets that reportedly engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very particular year which significantly affected trends in the trade of counterfeit and pirated goods, both offline and most especially online. In the United States, e-commerce year-on-year retail sales grew by 13.3% for the second quarter of 2019, while total retail sales increased by only 3.2%. The rapid growth of e-commerce platforms has helped fuel the growth of counterfeit and pirated goods into a half trillion-dollar industry. As a result, the 2020 Notorious Markets List (NML) report includes for the first time a section addressing the role of Internet platforms in facilitating the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods into the United States.
According to the USTR, stakeholders reported reduced activities at many physical markets in 2020 due to the lack of tourism and other challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is partly the reason that some markets featured in the 2019 report have been dropped this year. Nevertheless, this year’s review still managed to identify 34 physical markets that are reported to engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.
Positive Developments since 2019
Despite the challenges of conducting raids during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many successful enforcement efforts that occurred this past year:
- In the United Kingdom, authorities raided three locations in Cheetham Hill near Manchester, which was nominated as a notorious market this year, arresting 11 individuals and confiscating counterfeit handbags, clothing, watches and perfume with a street value of USD $10 million.
- In Brazil, its Ministry of Justice and Public Security with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and other international agencies and organisations launched the second phase of “Operation 404,” a nationwide takedown of digital piracy platforms infringing U.S.-based copyrighted works. The authorities seized hundreds of websites and mobile applications that facilitated the illicit streaming and/or downloading of films, television series, and live sporting events.
- The United States and China signed an historic and enforceable agreement on a Phase One trade deal in January 2020 that requires structural reforms and other changes to China’s economic and trade regime in the areas of intellectual property (IP), technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange. The IP chapter obligates China to significantly increase the number of enforcement actions against pirated and counterfeit goods at physical markets in China.
Today, E-commerce has made it more difficult to detect counterfeited and pirated goods but easier for consumers to unknowingly purchase fake products that appear genuine. Combatting counterfeits in this atmosphere will require collaborative action and sustained efforts by both the government and by companies that profit from the sale of such goods.
While there is no penalty for being listed, the NML is made available to the public and encourages the private sector and governments across the globe to use it to complement and inform other actions to reduce piracy and counterfeiting.
To read the 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, click here.