Counterfeiting: BPG warns harsher penalties needed

Brand Protection Group warns that the UAE must impose harsher penalties to counter fake products.

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By  Angela Giuffrida Published  June 3, 2006

Tougher penalties need to be enforced by UAE authorities to deter the proliferation of counterfeit goods, the Brand Protection Group (BPG) has warned. Although Dubai is a major transhipment hub for the distribution of fake building products to markets in the region — as well as Asia and Africa — just 7% are seized at Dubai’s ports each year. Also only 3% of the six million containers entering Dubai each year undergo customs checks. Although the counterfeiters, caught since the UAE Intellectual Property law was last updated in 2002, have been told they could see their business shut down, ordered to pay compensation, or even warned they could be jailed, BPG board member Robert Taylor-Hughes admitted: “We won’t stamp out the problem unless the penalties are more severe. “Checking all containers would be an impossible task, but there are ways in which we can work with and educate the customs department on what to look out for. “Tackling the problem at distribution level is another way of reducing it — there are traders who knowingly sell counterfeit goods and those who don’t know the difference because the copies are so good,” he said. The BPG, which was established in late 2005, plans to commission an audit report to establish data on which industry sectors and products are most vulnerable to counterfeit. “The building materials market is not the worst affected in the UAE — it’s still very technical and more money can be made from other industries,” said Omar Obeidat, a lawyer at Al Tamimi & Company. “But part of the problem lies with counterfeiters establishing their own distribution network and market through other brands. “Counterfeiters of building materials have found that, after a while, they can start producing their own legitimate products because they find a market for cheap goods among contractors. “Sometimes the problem arises through client specifications. If they didn’t demand products from places such as Germany or Italy, contractors might be less inclined to look towards cheaper markets.” An estimated 30% of illicit trade takes place in the UAE, with the bulk of counterfeit goods coming from China, added the BPG.

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