Vernacular awareness campaigns key to tackling counterfeiting: Bibek Debroy

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Supreme Court said on Friday that while every citizen must be made aware of legal provisions to deal with counterfeiting and smuggling, they should also in turn understand the importance of buying genuine goods.

“In order to create mass awareness about the ill effects of counterfeiting and smuggling, it is necessary to reach out to all sections of the society. India will have to adopt innovative and interactive measures to reach out to its consumers,” he asserted.

Addressing the eighth edition of ‘MASCRADE 2022’, organised by FICCI-CASCADE, Kaul said that it is imperative for all the stakeholders to prepare well to meet the emerging threats and challenges associated with counterfeiting and smuggling in consonance with the changing nature of the illegal activity.

“This is critical at a time when India is making strong progress to become a manufacturing hub for the world, supporting innovation in every sector and focusing on people-centric development models,” he added.

Kaul added that smuggling, counterfeiting, tax evasion and illicit trade are impacting legitimate economic activities.

They also deprive the government of revenues for investment in vital public services, dislocate millions of legitimate jobs and cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem and human lives, he added.

Earlier, Bibek Debroy, Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, said that as consumers and citizens, “we ask the government to do various things, but it is actually up to us how we tackle counterfeits and smuggled goods. The broader issue is consumer mindset”.

“If the consumer regards a commodity as something where the after-sale service is unimportant, it tends to be much more price sensitive as they don’t care about the quality,” stated Debroy.

However, he averred that as systems become more organised, the importance of the grey market becomes less and less. He also suggested sensitising consumers using vernacular languages.

Justice Manmohan Sarin, former Lokayukta, NCT of Delhi, and think-tank member, FICCI CASCADE, said that there is enough discretion in the existing laws to carry out the judicial powers for attaining the desired objectives.

FICCI-CASCADE Anti-Counterfeiting and Anti-Smuggling Awards were given to enforcement officers, school children and journalists during the valedictory session.

Sanjeev Tripathi, former Chief of RAW and think-tank member, FICCI CASCADE, also shared his perspective during the valedictory session.

Narendra K. Sabharwal, Chairman, FICCI IP Committee and former Deputy Director General, WIPO and think-tank member, FICCI CASCADE, alluded to various studies, particularly by OECD, that have underscored the enormous impact of counterfeit and pirated products on international trade and noted the figure could be in excess of $460 billion per year.

Sabharwal noted that the counterfeiters have become increasingly sophisticated in subverting the system using artificial intelligence applications to create comparable or even better counterfeits.

“Some estimates point that one out of five products sold on e-commerce sites might be fake,” he added.

He also suggested that keeping a watch on the product promotional efforts adopted by counterfeiters and cyber squatters are some measures that can prove effective in tackling online infringement.

The event saw participation from several senior functionaries from leading international organisations, such as World Customs Organization (WCO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Interpol, United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), US Homeland Security, and Australian Border Force.

During the two-day event, experts from India and abroad made highly-informative presentations and spoke at multiple insightful plenaries, highlighting the significance of empowering consumers to take on the battle against illicit trade by boycotting smuggled and counterfeit goods.

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