Owners of trademarks, copyrights, design rights and patents own the intellectual property rights in their products. Manufacturing and selling identical or similar products violates intellectual property rights.
If anyone other than the owner of a trademark, copyright, design right or patent manufactures or sells identical or similar products, such products are counterfeits, so-called pirate copies.
There are pirate copies in most product categories such as branded clothes, medicines, electronics, toys, mobile telephones, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The more attractive a product, the greater the worldwide interest in making pirate copies.
There is no doubt that the trade in pirate copies has increased vastly in the new millennium. One contributory cause is that it is so easy to order products via the internet. China is a major source of counterfeit goods, but lots of counterfeit goods are made in many other countries too.
The danger in buying pirate copies
Buying pirate copies can be dangerous. Counterfeit goods seldom fulfil all the EU’s product safety requirements (e.g. fire safety). The products have no guarantees and you, as a consumer, cannot impose any requirements regarding how they are made (after all, you do not even know who produces them). What then happens when the cosmetics you use prove to contain mercury? If your brake blocks do not work as they should? Or if the dietary supplement you are taking contains substances that are prohibited because they can have serious side-effects?
One worrying trend is increased sales of medicines via illegal “online pharmacies”. This is because a large percentage of the medicines sold there are counterfeit. These medicines can be entirely ineffective, which is serious if you really need a medicine. However, there are also counterfeit medicines that contain substances that are directly hazardous.
In 2014, public authorities in 111 countries (Sweden included therein) carried out an international operation against counterfeit medicines. In one week, almost 10 million tablets were confiscated and 10,600 websites closed down. These confiscations included all sorts of preparations from medicines classed as narcotics and doping agents to dietary supplements and slimming aids classed as medicines. Many slimming aids included, amongst other things, substances that increased the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Viewed from a societal aspect, there are a host of problems connected with pirate copying. One is that trade in pirate copies is an important income source or money laundering medium for major organised crime. Another is that it disables the market’s free competition mechanism. When companies that have invested heavily in products struggle with profitability, jobs are eventually lost and society loses tax revenue.
This is what Swedish Customs is doing
Swedish Customs can stop any consignment that it suspects contains pirate copies. We contact the company that owns the rights in the original product. This company may choose to start a civil action against the buyer. Another option is that the buyer will agree to destruction of the goods and, possibly, pay damages to the company. As a buyer, it is difficult to get any reimbursement from the seller.
Swedish Customs works with other public authorities in the official collaboration against pirate copying. The other authorities in this collaboration are the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, the Swedish Consumer Agency/the European Consumer Centres Network, the Swedish Medical Products Agency, the Swedish Police and the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
This is what you can do
The best advice is to be healthily sceptical about offers that you think are too good to be true. Companies that sell pirate copies put a great deal of effort into their web shops being perceived as serious and giving the appearance that you are dealing with another EU country (even if the goods themselves are, for example, actually sent from Asia). By paying attention to, for example, the language, you can often detect whether or not a web shop is a trustworthy retailer. If you are unsure, you can always contact the product manufacturer and ask if it works with a certain web shop.
Also bear in mind that many goods sold via adverts placed by private individuals may be counterfeit. Thus, ask where goods were bought and ask for receipts and guarantees (if available) for the goods from the place of purchase.
You may not receive medicines at all by post from countries outside the EEA (the EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). Thus, before placing an order, you should always check with the Swedish Medical Products Agency whether the preparation you are interested in is classed as a medicine.
Exceptions from intellectual property rights
At the moment, Swedish Customs does not intervene if, when you are entering Sweden, you have one or a few counterfeit items in your personal luggage (provided that it cannot be assumed that you are going to sell the goods). So that you do not have to pay customs duty and tax on the goods, their total value must not be above SEK 4,300 if you are entering the country via a commercial flight or ferry (SEK 3,000 if you are entering in some other way).
Remember that the customs authorities in other EU countries may act differently. Certain countries intervene even if the counterfeit goods are for personal use and of low value. To get more information, contact the embassy in the country you are travelling to.
Last updated: 2020-09-17
What is updated: Quality assured