An often-overlooked way to combat counterfeiting is to enlist the aid of landlords whose properties are used for illicit trade, says a new white paper.
The document from Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) – an initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – provides an action plan to engage property owners in the fight against counterfeit and pirated goods, and a checklist of measures that can be taken to curb the activity.
Speaking at the Europol IP Crime Conference in Antwerp, Belgium, this week, Paola Piccoli, chair of BASCAP's Landlords Working Group, said: "Property owners and landlords are a critical link in the global supply chain for legitimate commerce and most landlords are responsible partners who do not want to do business with criminals engaging with illegal counterfeiting and piracy practices."
"However, whether knowingly or unknowingly, some of these landlords are aiding the criminal networks trading in counterfeit and pirated goods, and this must be stopped," added Piccoli, who is brand enforcement and IP counsel for Swiss group Maus Freres/Lacoste.
The landlord project is part of a broader BASCAP initiative targeting intermediaries involved – often unwittingly – in illicit commerce, including raw materials suppliers, shipping firms, online marketplaces, internet service providers, credit card companies and social media sites.
"Landlords are becoming more vulnerable as law enforcement officials, supported by new laws and regulations in some areas, are increasingly targeting owners and landlords that support counterfeiting operations," says the white paper.
"A recent increase in the number of prosecutions confirms that landlords who are not vigilant about the activities that are taking place in their premises, are becoming victims of counterfeiters and incurring a dramatic increase in costs in damage penalties and legal fees."
Landlords should undertake due diligence checks to make sure they understand tenants' businesses, include provisions in leases prohibiting activities related to counterfeit goods, and evict tenants that contravene those provisions, says BASCAP.
Other recommended measures include a clear and well-communicated policy for market properties, as well as periodic checks on properties and forging closer relationships with brand owners. Meanwhile governments need to establish clear conditions under which landlords can be held liable for the actions of tenants, and enforcement agencies should increase educational activities to highlight the problem.
"Physical marketplaces are being exploited by criminals to trade in counterfeit and pirated goods at massive scale in places easily accessible to consumers," said BASCAP director William Dobson.
"These best practices are a timely and important blueprint to help landlords prevent counterfeiters from using their properties and to assist governments and law enforcement agencies in stopping this activity and protecting consumers."