Since 1996, Argentina has been featured on the “Priority Watch List” of the Special 301 report, an annual report prepared by the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Countries that are placed on this list are countries whose intellectual property regimes are deemed of concern. However, during the last 15 years, Argentina has been going through legislative changes and actions with the purpose of taking effective border methods. Since the legislative reform that took effect in 2004, the Argentine Customs has expressly had the power to prohibit the importation and exportation of goods that bear counterfeited trademarks through ex officio proceedings, acting upon the party’s request, or via an “Alert Entries System.” This system—a registry of trademarks registered in Argentina—operates on the basis of voluntary registration by owners who wish to record their trademarks.
However, despite these actions, counterfeit products within Argentina are at an all-time high; in a trend incongruous with patterns in the majority of the rest of the world, street piracy continually increases, mostly in the form of burned CDs and DVDs, but illegal copies of other copyright products are also available in hard goods. Two of the culprits behind these sustained internal counterfeiting activities: the La Salada fair, as well as the network of manteros (or street vendors).
La Salada, an unofficial central market in Buenos Aires, has become synonymous with the manufacturing, distribution, and selling of illegal products in Argentina. With over 30,000 stands in four locations, La Salada is visited by roughly 1 million people daily; according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), the market’s total volume of sales amounted to an estimated US $2.9 billion, of which around 10% came from the sale of counterfeit music CDs and film DVDs, accounting for 4% of Argentina’s GDP. As a result of its success, La Salada has become the most imitated business model in Argentina in the last year; hundreds of similar, smaller markets known as Saladitas have cropped up in Argentina, and it seems as though their growth is unrelenting.
Similarly, the sale of pirated products (primarily CDs and clothing) in Argentina is growing as a result of the growing number of manteros, vendors who settle on the sidewalk to sell their goods on a blanket, or manta. These street vendors are often seen around train stations and other high-traffic areas and streets. In general, the largest concentration of pirated products is in the greater Buenos Aires district; however, brand owners face serious challenges in larger cities throughout the Argentine provinces. The majority of the manteros also sell merchandise similar to that found in stores, as they usually buy them from the same distributor. That they also tend to vend their products directly outside of these same stores at a much lower price causes a deep rivalry between shop owners and manteros.
However, it seems as though the Argentine authorities have realized the growth in counterfeit products originating from within the country: as reported in an INTA Blog post, more than 150 Argentine police officers conducted a raid against suspected vendors of counterfeit goods at La Salada, demolishing an estimated 7,800 vending stands on April 8, 2015. The stands closed by the police were located in an area outside of the La Salada premises; in addition to the piracy of intellectual property and the unauthorized occupation of public street space, these vendors did not pay any kind of taxes, and additionally charged a toll to let their neighbors pass through the vendor area.
While, as noted in the INTA Blog, this raid is an important step toward the elimination of the sale of counterfeit goods in Argentina, this police and judicial action is not enough to improve the current deficits that Argentina is experiencing in its fight against piracy originating within the country itself. By targeting piracy that occurs both inside and outside Argentina’s borders, Argentina would be able to minimize the tax deficit that occurs as a result of piracy; furthermore, an increase in anticounterfeiting enforcement would deviate the funds of terrorism and drug trafficking organizations, and would ultimately result in an increase in the efficiency of the protection of the rights of intellectual property owners.
The Argentine government and many local organizations are dedicated to combatting counterfeiting and have collaborated on some recent projects to do so. INTA met with many Argentine officials and associations to join these anticounterfeiting efforts in 2015. For more information on our anticounterfeiting activities, please contact INTA Anticounterfeiting Advisor, Maysa Razavi, at email@example.com.