Counterfeit Goods – an Open Secret in Latvia

Authors: Ruta Olmane, Latvian Trademark and Design Attorney, European Trademark and Design Attorney, Lawyer at METIDA

Chanel_N°5Counterfeits of well-known world fashion brands such as Armani, Chanel and others, are sold in Latvia quite a lot and often. The sale takes place in the Internet, as well as in actual stores. It is shocking that counterfeit goods are seized even from the stores located in shopping centers.

Recently the Latvian TV program Bez Tabu informed about this problem. A person told about an online store, where well-known fashion brand clothing and accessories could be purchased at competitive good prices. The first suspicions arose due to the fact that the price was a very low for such kind of goods. Armani brand home dress in this online store was offered at about EUR 50. Although it is known that a similar original could be purchased at least at a couple hundred euros. Moreover suspicious was a fact about the location of the shop. If the store is located in the real premises not in Internet, then the interior itself of the shop can characterise the kind of the store.

Usually the sellers of such stores even do not seek to deceive and tell that the store clothes are original. “No, of course, that’s not original. Armani even does not have such models. It is a copy,” the seller tells confidentially.

“The proper law provisions are protecting interests of the trademark owners in Latvia. Distribution of counterfeit goods is prohibited,” shortly comments Aleksandrs Capulis, Head of the 3rd Department of Economic Crime Division.

The law provisions provide administrative or criminal liability for distribution of counterfeit goods, meanwhile in practice there are not so many successful cases. Very often the Police Officers in Latvia are forced to make a decision to terminate the criminal cases due to luck of proper evidences for proving intention of the sellers of illegal goods to infringe intellectual property rights. Also mandatory condition to prove occur substantiate harm sometimes is rather complicated.

The main problem is that small shop selling counterfeit goods usually offer just a few items of each well-known brand what in total constitute big amount of possible harm, but divided by each trademark owner does not constitute the required amount.

Also the questions of calculation of harm is always not obvious and clear – in case when illegally marked goods are not similar to the original goods, for example, if well-know trademark Chanel is placed on the kind of goods which Chanel does not produce at all – how the harm will be calculated? Often infringers object that calculation of harm is made on the basis of price of the original goods, because it is rather obvious that local consumers never ever could purchase goods for such high price.

Noting all above mentioned problems and noting geographical position of Latvia with external borders of European Union (EU) we consider that one of the most effective means for fighting against distribution of counterfeit goods is customs measures, which help to seize larger amounts of counterfeit goods at once and procedure of further steps is rather easier.

As stated by European Commission Customs’ unique position on the border plays a crucial role in stopping counterfeit goods from reaching the EU market. Therefore enforcement of intellectual property rights by customs is of top priority. In June 2013 a new Regulation (No. 608/2013) on IPR enforcement at customs was adopted.

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