A necessary response to a serious issue for
consumers and businesses alike
In 2008, the French government made the fight against online
counterfeiting the top priority of its national IP policy
agenda. The situation back then was critical: online sales of
fake products dramatically increased and triggered waves of
complaints from aggrieved consumers, led to litigation between
brand owners and e-commerce platforms, and damaged the public
image of e-commerce.
The key issue was how to stop online sales of counterfeit
products without harming the booming business of e-commerce.
The French government initiated a dialogue between e-commerce
platforms and IPR holders. After nine months of consultations
and negotiations led by the President of the National
Anti-Counterfeiting Committee (CNAC), and supported by the
French Industrial Property Office (INPI), an arrangement was
found between the major e-commerce platforms and over 500
French and international brands. The charter provided a set of
preventive measures and reactive procedures, to be implemented
through continuous cooperation between the parties.
Filtering as the key for efficient
First, technical detection tools (filters) based on
information provided by IPR holders were set up by e-commerce
platforms. These tools include key words showing the
counterfeit nature of the products offered for sale, identity
verifications, identification of dubious offers, an analysis of
sellers’ profiles and behaviours and detection of
The charter also provides reactive measures so that action
can be taken against counterfeiters. Rights holders can use a
simplified notice and takedown procedure. Sanctions against
sellers of counterfeit goods can include a six-month suspension
or closing of their accounts, plus measures to prevent
re-registration. Sellers must also prove the authenticity of
the products or the authorisation of the IP rights holders.
Over the following 18 months, the parties implemented
anti-counterfeiting mechanisms and exchanged information. The
first results were very encouraging.
Immediate and inspiring results
The volume of online fake products significantly decreased
or simply disappeared, and so did the number of claims.
A direct and solid dialogue is now established between
stakeholders and government. An annual assessment of this
mechanism regularly highlights the positive impact of these
solutions. This soft law providing efficient preventive tools
became a standard in France. The French '’Charter
of confidence’’ is also widely
promoted abroad as an example of good practice. It inspired a
similar initiative adopted at the EU level in 2011. In 2012,
two more agreements were signed in France between IPR owners
and classified advertising platforms, and with postal
In France – and in Europe – the challenge
is now to widen the scope of this type of cooperation by
including other intermediaries such as advertising service
providers, payment services and shippers.
The lessons for IPR enforcement online in
It is crucial to tackle the problem before it is too big.
The Chinese central government is currently encouraging local
police and administrative enforcement authorities to become
more active in monitoring and investigating online
Together with large French companies, the French authorities
are developing contacts with the major Chinese e-commerce
platforms, social media platforms and search engines to offer
assistance for implementing filters and improving notice and
takedown procedures. Detecting obvious and recurring fakes is
technically possible and useful for both sides. For instance,
collaboration with e-commerce platforms consists of rights
owners identifying trends and platforms setting up proactive
measures to prevent similar ads from being published in the
future. A step-by-step approach based on mutual trust and a
win-win spirit will build confidence that filtering is a
necessary and efficient tool to reduce IPR infringements and
In China, detection tools could soon become the new
standard. But to achieve this goal, the cooperation of
companies is necessary and more international brands owners
should integrate this requirement in their dialogue with
internet companies. Only by working all together we can ensure
that IP rights are respected online.
Jean-Baptiste Barbier is the representative of the
French IP Office in China and Counsellor for IP at the French
Embassy in Beijing.