“Counterfeiters who live from piracy don’t see this as a crime, they see it as being mischievous because there are no real sanctions”, said Santiago Peña, Nike’s Brand Protection Manager, in dialogue with Brands+.
Considered by the executive as one of the most counterfeited brands in the world, the company faces high-quality piracy that is also growing on the digital arena and is making it harder to differentiate a Nike original from a fake.
How do you see the issue of IP infringement?
There is a shift in the paradigm. We’re usually focused more on Customs, but today the digital world came to change all that and I think we have to concentrate more, not only in Argentina but in the world, in digital enforcement, specifically in couriers which are the ones that are bringing more and more counterfeit goods to the Latin American countries from the East.
In addition, I see something in Latin America that worries me, and that is that counterfeiters who live from piracy don’t see this as a crime, they see it as being mischievous because there are no real sanctions. If a person goes out to sell counterfeit products, in the worst case scenario they are going to get their goods seized and then they will sell the same counterfeit products in the same place, that is something that I saw happened in every Latin American country, so I think this is a major challenge for every country.
What are the most frequent problems the brand faces in terms of counterfeit products?
Specifically, the main issue Nike is having is the quality of the fakes. They usually weren’t that good and now we’re finding products that are very similar to ours, it’s only by using them that you can tell, so the difference is in the quality of the product, the duration and the impact they have on the performance, especially if it is a sports shoe. We are seeing that being a very popular brand, it is probably the most counterfeited brand on the fashion industry.
Additionally, in line with what is happening in the world, we are having, a digital piracy issue, which is very difficult to control because it is a publication where the ad of the image is original, but then what arrives is a counterfeit product. Also, the internet provides anonymity for the people selling those goods, and so it’s very difficult to find them. Those are the two main issues we have to address urgently.
What relevant cases can you mention in Latin America?
A few months ago we went to the La Salada fair in Argentina, where we found the worst piracy has to offer: we found people in slave labor, people who had entered the country illegally, workshops in deplorable conditions, and obviously many counterfeit products. It seems to me that this is an emblematic case not only because of the size of the place that was raided and the amount of fake products, but also because it is an example of what needs to be done, it was an attack on the heart of Argentine piracy, with a lot of support from the government. People were detained, the manufacturing source of these products was shut down, the products were destroyed and the machines in the shops were seized.
On the other hand, I would like to mention a case that happened in Uruguay. There was a person found selling counterfeit goods on several occasions and because of that he was sent to jail. I believe that if we had more examples of cases like this, people would feel that buying or selling counterfeit goods has a negative impact, not only in the local economy of every country, but has serious economic consequences. That way, effectively scaring people can make a difference.
What is the brand doing to combat piracy and counterfeiting?
What Nike is doing has to do with the type of field in which the sale of counterfeit products occurs and also the country. The strategy is different depending on each case. On the digital front we’re hiring external companies to monitor social networks, digital platforms and websites, where we find ads for counterfeit products, which we take down quickly and effectively. Either way, I think the digital challenge is just beginning and more solutions have to be created besides these ones.
On the other hand, in terms of markets, it depends on the country. In Chile, for example, everything is concentrated in two neighborhoods, so the issue of enforcement is easier, Argentina, on the other hand, has more territories where these goods are sold, but luckily the police is very supportive and we’re seizing a lot of goods. In this sense, I believe that Customs has a very big challenge because it is a huge territory to control and borders that are difficult to cover. We are also working hard to see how to address the issue of curriers, today there is a lot of product that enters through curriers.