Interview with Julio Laporta of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO): Lithuania has made the most progress among EU countries

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has published the results of its 2022 survey, an update on young people’s IP infringement behaviour in the wake of the pandemic. The study looks at trends in the behaviour of young people who buy counterfeit goods and use pirated content. Julio Laporta, EUIPO communications manager and spokesperson, comments on the results for Lithuania and other EU countries.

Julio Laporta.
Julio Laporta.
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Jun 22, 2022, 11:59 AM

What are the main findings of this year’s survey?

The main finding is that young Europeans are buying more counterfeit products and continue to use pirated content. More than half (52%) of Europeans aged 15–24 surveyed said they had intentionally or accidentally bought at least one counterfeit product online in the last year, while a third (33%) said they had used digital content from illegal sources.

37% of respondents had deliberately bought counterfeit products and 21% had used, played, downloaded, or streamed content from illegal sources. 60% of young Europeans said they prefer to use digital content from legal sources, up from 50% in 2019.

An interesting part of the survey this year is the reasons why young Europeans buy fakes and use pirated content. Again, as last year, „price and availability“ were the most frequently cited. It is becoming clear that peer and social influence is becoming increasingly important.

How do young people in Lithuania compare to their peers in other EU countries and the Baltic region?

In terms of access to pirated content, 19% of Lithuanian young people have deliberately accessed digital content from illegal sources, which is significantly lower than the EU average (33%). This is also one of the biggest decreases compared to 2019 (45%). In terms of the Baltic countries, young people in Estonia (29%) and Latvia (25%) are more likely to use pirated content than their Lithuanian peers.

When it comes to buying counterfeit products, 42% of young Lithuanians reported that they had intentionally bought at least one counterfeit product in the last 12 months. This is 5% more than in the EU as a whole (37%). Lithuania ranks ninth with this proportion. As for the Baltic countries, Lithuania shows a significant jump compared to Estonia (31%), but lower than Latvia (42%, third place in the EU).

It is also important to note that more than 66% of those who had doubts said that they could not distinguish between genuine and counterfeit goods. Intellectual property infringements not only harm consumers, their health and safety, but also cause significant damage to the EU economy. They reduce turnover and jobs in the legal economy, as well as taxes and social security contributions.

How has the pandemic affected these indicators?

The survey results on the purchase of counterfeit products are worrying and likely reflect the significant increase in online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. E-commerce and digital consumption have increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. An increasing number of young people (60% in the EU and 56% in Lithuania) said they preferred legal alternatives to pirated content. This is an increase of ten percentage points compared to the 2019 results.

How much economic harm is this? How much money has been lost?

According to the latest EUIPO and OECD data, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods amounted to €119 billion in 2019. This represented 5.8% of all goods entering the EU. Most worryingly, counterfeit medicines, foodstuffs, cosmetics, and toys are becoming increasingly common. Among young Europeans, clothing, accessories, and footwear are the most popular types of counterfeit goods purchased, followed by electronic devices, cosmetics and perfumes.

What are the most effective strategies to prevent counterfeit purchases today? What role do brands themselves play in this fight?

We are publishing these reports to raise awareness and to help develop effective policies and programmes to protect intellectual property. The new analysis contributes to further raising awareness and helps our young citizens and consumers to make informed decisions.

The role of social media should not be forgotten. It provides an opportunity to engage in intellectual property rights infringements or to promote counterfeit products and pirated content. Sometimes opinion leaders and other public figures openly promote products that young consumers cannot afford (thus indirectly encouraging them to choose counterfeits). We have also noticed that some opinion leaders promote counterfeit products or illegal content. It is important that everyone understands the risks and harms of buying counterfeits.

Do you think that the findings of this latest study will help governments to improve the legal framework and reduce counterfeiting and piracy among young people? Is there anything else we could do better?

Our aim is to provide data and evidence on intellectual property infringements. That is exactly what this study does. It tracks how young people’s behaviour and attitudes change over time, providing policymakers, stakeholders, educators, and civil society organisations with valuable insights into how the younger generation reacts to IPR.

We are publishing these reports to raise awareness and to help develop policies and programmes to protect intellectual property. Several pieces of legislation have been adopted at the national and EU level to combat counterfeiting and piracy, but they need to be implemented. Sanctions and penalties for IPR crimes should also be a deterrent if we want to curb this type of crime. Intellectual property rights can only be properly exercised if they are properly enforced.

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