Industry Research

Small Parcels, Big Impact: Misuse of Small Parcels for Trade in Counterfeit Goods

Published: December 13, 2018

Hadrien Valembois INTA Policy Officer, Europe


As the end of the year draws closer and consumers are busy purchasing gifts for their loved ones, many people rely on the Internet to find the perfect gift, often to be delivered (preferably before the holidays) in small parcels.

In that context, a report released on December 12 by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Misuse of Small Parcels for Trade in Counterfeit Goods is timely.

The report is the latest in a series of joint EUIPO-OECD studies that analyze the impact on the economy of the global trade in counterfeit and pirated products, as well as their share of international trade. It covers global trade from 2011 to 2013 and uses data obtained from several sources.

The main-and concerning-findings include:

  • Two-thirds of all customs seizures involve small parcels. Between 2011 and 2013, nearly 63 percent of customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods involved small parcels. This trend is even more concerning in the European Union: according to the European Commission, 76 percent of fake goods intercepted in the European Union in 2017 had been sent via small courier and postal shipments.
  • Very small parcels are the majority. The size of these shipments tends to be very small, with packages of 10 items or less accounting for the majority of all seizures.
  • Several sectors are most common. Of the postal parcels and express courier shipments seized by customs, 84 percent were counterfeit footwear; 77 percent were fake optical, photographic and medical equipment (mostly sunglasses); 66 percent were counterfeit information and communications technology devices; and 63 percent, were counterfeit watches, leather articles and handbags, and jewelry.

Given these findings, the report notes: “Policy makers and the private sector should be concerned about the significant scope of counterfeit trade using small parcels to harm legitimate businesses and economic activity, and to cause damage to the health, safety and security of citizens.”

While the study does not include detailed recommendations, it does offer some general suggestions that are worth exploring: develop more effective cooperation between customs authorities, postal and express couriers, e-commerce platforms, and right holders, in particular by improving mechanisms for collecting and sharing quality information, and improve risk assessment techniques to help customs authorities determine which packages should be checked.

It is now in the hands of rights holders, postal operators, and public authorities to define and implement solutions-a welcome gift for the holiday season.