In It Together: Track Leader Conny Schmitt on Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting

Published: August 25, 2021

Conny Schmitt

Conny Schmitt (Grunecker, Germany)

INTA’s 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+, from November 15 to 19, will include five educational tracks—one track on each day of the event. The five tracks are: Building a Better Society Through Brands; The Business of Brands; Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting; Innovation and the Future of IP; and Regional Updates.

Conny Schmitt (Grunecker, Germany) is a member of the 2021 Annual Meeting Project Team and the track leader of the Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track, taking place on November 17. The theme of this track aligns with her daily work as an attorney-at-law at Grunecker as well as her volunteer work at INTA.

Ms. Schmitt has more than 15 years’ experience in the field of trademark and unfair competition law. She represents clients in a wide range of industries on issues that include enforcing and defending trademarks and anticounterfeiting. At INTA, Ms. Schmitt has served on various committees and project teams since 2004 and is currently a member of the Unreal Campaign Committee.

In an interview with the INTA Bulletin, Ms. Schmitt provides a preview of the Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track and discusses what it will take to fight the proliferation of counterfeiting worldwide—including how brand owners and other stakeholders can do their part.

Which of the sessions on the Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track are you most excited about, and why?
This is a difficult question to answer. All the sessions will be really interesting and educational, as they’ll shed light on enforcement and anticounterfeiting from completely different angles.

First, there will be a session about budget-driven enforcement measures and how to maintain a forceful and effective enforcement strategy while meeting the management’s budgetary expectations. Next, attendees will learn about the importance of educating consumers and stakeholders in the supply chain, including marketplaces, to effectively fight counterfeiting. And lastly, we will hear about technologies to help brand owners build cost-conscious and effective online anti-counterfeiting programs.

I served as a project team leader for INTA’s Unreal Campaign Committee. The Unreal Campaign educates young consumers about the dangers of counterfeit goods, and I have had wonderful experiences informing teenagers about this through presentations at schools. I was able to witness how their attitude toward counterfeit products changed after they heard about the harms of counterfeit products.

Education is essential for getting to the root of counterfeiting. Therefore, my personal interest lies in educating consumers and other stakeholders, but I highly recommend all the sessions on this track since they add an equally important piece to the anticounterfeiting puzzle.

The last two years have seen tremendous changes worldwide as we have had to adapt to a global pandemic and a proliferation of new technologies, perhaps even disruptive innovations. How has this shaped trends as well as efforts related to enforcement and anticounterfeiting?
The pandemic has changed our shopping habits. People spend more time at home and more money on online shopping. As studies have shown, online sales grew by 13.3 percent in 2019. Online sales have continued to accelerate throughout the pandemic. This creates many opportunities for counterfeiters and, at the same time, causes significant challenges for brand owners, authentic sales platforms, and consumers. These challenges need to be addressed differently, namely, with advanced technologies that can keep up with the advanced trends in counterfeiting.

INTA’s updated report, “Addressing the Sale of Counterfeits on the Internet,” emphasizes that all stakeholders, including brand owners and e-commerce platforms, must fight counterfeiting. Why does it take a holistic approach to fight counterfeiting?
This report deals with the increasing sales of and access to counterfeits, posing a serious threat to the economy and to public health and safety, and what can be done by brand owners and online service providers in cooperation to protect trademarks on the Internet. It provides clear results, namely that each stakeholder alone will simply not be able to successfully fight counterfeits.

The study’s recommendation is that brand owners and companies involved in online marketing and sales and distribution of goods, as well as payment providers, need to cooperate in addressing the problem of online sales of fake goods. The problem is too large for any one stakeholder to address and resolve alone. The Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track will provide suggestions on new ways in which stakeholders can work together.

Why is it incumbent on brands to educate consumers about counterfeit goods and services, especially in light of strategizing to help build customer loyalty?
What are brands about? Quality and consumer expectations. In order to fulfill these expectations, consumers need to understand the difference between authentic and fake products and the risk involved in buying a counterfeit.

In particular, they need to know how to tell one from the other because an inadvertent purchase of a counterfeit product can create disappointment or even personal injury. If consumers don’t understand that they bought a counterfeit product, the brand’s reputation will suffer. So, it is vital that consumers can tell one from the other.

Should brands be assessing counterfeiting as a fundamental risk to a brand’s intangible assets and company performance, and a deterrent to innovation?
Absolutely. Imagine, for example, a malfunction of a counterfeit chainsaw and someone gets hurt. If the brand name is featured in the report about the accident, the company’s reputation suffers and its performance is at stake.

INTA’s 2020 In-House Practitioners Benchmarking Report found that over the last three years, largely due to changes in technology, demand for work has increased the most in anticounterfeiting (up 60 percent). Considering this, how should in-house trademark practitioners and their organizations strategize and adapt for the future?
This question will be addressed and answered in one of the sessions on our Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track. I highly recommend attending this session and taking away best practices.

What do you want attendees to take away from the Enforcement and Anticounterfeiting track?
I want attendees to get the full picture of the problem. This includes how things have shifted over the past two years, why a holistic approach is necessary, what it could look like, as well as what tools are available for reaching that goal. Using the notion of an anticounterfeiting puzzle mentioned earlier, I would like attendees to put the pieces of the puzzle together and take the whole picture home.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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