PEOPLE | Jul 17, 2018

Blockchain and counterfeiting: interview with EUIPO deputy director Andrea di Carlo

What is the role of blockchain in protecting intellectual property?

Every year 60 billion euros are lost in the European Union due to counterfeiting. EUIPO is an EU agency, based in Alicante, Spain, which manages the registration of EU trade marks (EUTM) and registered Community designs (RCDs) in order to protect intellectual property (IP) in all EU Member States.

“The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights ,”  says EUIPO deputy director Andrea Di Carlo, “was established in 2009 to support the protection and enforcement of IP rights and to combat the growing threat of infringements in Europe. It was entrusted to EUIPO in June 2012 through EU Regulation No. 386/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

The Observatory provides studies and data to help define effective policies for the protection of intellectual property rights and to support innovation and creativity. In addition, the Observatory helps the authorities responsible for combating counterfeiting and piracy with training and databases, and works with the intellectual property offices of Member States to raise citizens’ awareness of the value and importance of IP”.

What are the numbers for counterfeiting in Europe and in Italy?

“The study we have carried out talks about 60 billion euro lost due to counterfeiting; this equates to 7.5% of sales in these sectors and 116 euro per capita for EU citizens. Since legitimate manufacturers produce less than they would have if counterfeiting did not exist – thus employing even less staff – the direct loss in these sectors translates into 434,000 less jobs across Europe. 

In Italy, counterfeit products cause annual losses of 7.9% of sales for an annual amount of about 8.6 billion euro, or 142 euro for each Italian citizen”.

Is Blockchain technology the solution to counterfeiting?

“There are already numerous tools, technologies and procedures that contribute to the fight against counterfeiting, verifying the authenticity of products and monitoring the distribution chain. These include traceability technologies, radiofrequency identification, customs controls and specialized databases, such as the Enforcement Database dell’EUIPO.

However, such systems often function as watertight compartments, a circumstance that criminal organizations exploit to their advantage. For this reason, we are considering new ways to make the fight against counterfeiting more effective. 

The use of Blockchain to interconnect systems and ensure data security and immutability enables the construction of an alliance among all levels of the distribution chain in order to guarantee the authenticity of goods and protect consumers”.

What actions have been taken by Europe to combat counterfeiting?

“Thanks to the studies that the Observatory has conducted in recent years, today there is a better understanding of the size and impact of the phenomenon. Now there is a need to find appropriate and effective solutions.

Counterfeiting is a global phenomenon that obviously needs an international response. In this regard, we have worked with EUIPO to create strong alliances designed to facilitate this response. For example, we have formed an alliance with Europol which has led to the creation of a specific unit which deals with the fight against counterfeiting and online piracy. Furthermore, we collaborate with the European Commission and the customs authorities of all Member States to support the work of Customs with regard to counterfeiting.

But, of course, law enforcement authorities must receive information from trademark owners and, in order to facilitate this exchange, we have developed a number of tools with the potential to make the fight against infringements of intellectual property rights much more effective”.