The Fight against Product Piracy
A brand is only as strong as the measures taken to defend it, which is why we at BIRKENSTOCK take the issue of brand and product piracy very seriously. An in-house task force comprising specialists from all departments handles all trademark violations and counterfeiting disputes. In order to take counterfeit products out of circulation, we have submitted a border seizure application with the national customs authorities. This allows customs officers to take action on external borders. To make it easier for such cases to be brought to light, BIRKENSTOCK offers training programs for employees of the Customs Administration.
Despite these costly and time-consuming efforts, the sad fact is that only a fraction of counterfeiting offenses are detected. What’s more, it’s getting ever harder to track down product pirates, because they are producing their wares in ever more remote locations. In particular, the densely populated countries of Southeast Asia offer plenty of refuge for product pirates.
At the same time, there has been a considerable improvement in the appearance of the imitations, which are, in many cases, almost impossible to tell apart from the real thing at first glance. This should not, however, disguise the fact that these products are fakes – and that they have usually been produced under extremely precarious conditions, both for people and the environment. Product piracy goes hand in hand with child and forced labor, derisory wages, corruption, and environmental destruction.
Facts and Figures about Product Piracy
- Product piracy is not a misdemeanor. Product piracy exhibits some of the characteristics of organized crime and, in principle, is just as serious as human trafficking, drug smuggling, and arms trafficking. The production and sale of counterfeit products affects the entire supply chain, from the procurement of raw materials and machinery through to logistics and sales. Anyone who buys pirate products is supporting – whether knowingly or unknowingly – criminal organizations who make money on the back of trademark owners without investing in product development and usually without paying any tax on their profits. Moreover, recent studies show that product piracy is being used increasingly as a source of income for international terrorism.
- Product piracy is a million dollar industry. Experts estimate that counterfeit products account for between 5 and 9 percent of global trade. This corresponds to a sales volume of about US $450 billion a year – or roughly the size of the Australian economy.
- Product piracy puts jobs in the regular sector at risk. In the European Union alone, it is estimated that two million jobs a year are lost as a consequence of product and brand piracy – 70,000 of which in Germany. The loss of jobs results in declining tax revenues and increased state welfare payments.
- Counterfeit products harbor a host of health risks. Buyers of fake products generally receive poor quality at extortionate prices. Unlike the real thing, imitation products are not usually submitted to a single stress, hygiene or harmful substances test. Therefore, counterfeit garments and shoes often contain high concentrations of harmful¬ substances that exceed statutory limits.
- Product counterfeiters are using ever more brazen methods. Apart from the products themselves, a considerable amount of criminal energy goes into the counterfeiting of packaging. Many bargains turn out to be expensive and misguided purchases – with no right of return.
- The Internet facilitates the sale of fakes. These days, many fake products are sold to consumers directly from the countries of origin. This hampers law enforcement, as the senders are located abroad and often remain anonymous. The fake goods often enter the country as individual consignments, rather than in containers. Disreputable suppliers trick unwitting consumers with supposed brand websites and original product photos, occasionally hiding behind the cloak of anonymity offered by popular sales platforms.
Too Good to Be True
A basic rule: if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. In particular, there are many fraudulent products lurking on the Web, but that’s not to say that consumers in bricks-and-mortar stores are immune from product piracy either. When purchasing, always pay close attention to product quality. Original BIRKENSTOCK products meet the very highest standards in terms of materials and craftsmanship. Counterfeit products usually exhibit fairly obvious defects, often emit an acrid chemical odor, and may feature labels containing unfamiliar logos or information that is blatantly false, etc.
In many instances, the sizes stated on the product are wrong. If you notice a considerable difference to your usual shoe size, this should set alarm bells ringing. The same applies if you are given no receipt for your purchase or if you are offered the product without the sales tax in force in the country in question. Watch out for offers that contain serious spelling and grammatical errors or enticing discounts for bulk orders.
Find Out More. Protect. Act.
Many counterfeit websites attempt to persuade users that they have accessed an authorized site by including the word “BIRKENSTOCK” or a variation of the word in the domain name. Very often, these websites copy the design of the two sites operated by BIRKENSTOCK (www.birkenstock.com and www.birkenstock-group.com) or use design elements protected by copyright, such as the BIRKENSTOCK logo or the seal of tradition. The copyright of photos is also violated, as they are often simply copied. This not only applies to websites, but also to online offers found on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, the major online sales platforms are also home to countless fake stores.
In online shops, on social media pages and retail platforms, you should keep an eye out for information/e-mail addresses that do not fit with what you would expect from a global brand, such as e-mail addresses from free webmail services. What’s more, it only seems that there are several payment methods available but in the end you’re asked to make a payment to a shady PayPal account or to pay by credit card.
Alongside trademark owners and law enforcement authorities, customers also have a key role to play in the fight against counterfeiters. Many consumers are not even aware that the goods are fake. We want to give you peace of mind about the origin of your products.
Whenever you purchase a BIRKENSTOCK product, you should be able to rest assured that it satisfies not only our high standards, but yours too. We wish to ensure that the BIRKENSTOCK brand remains synonymous with outstanding quality. If you suspect that a retailer or a website is offering counterfeit products under the BIRKENSTOCK name, please report your suspicions. We take these matters extremely seriously and will investigate all information given to us by customers.