The different projects and actions carried out by the FH Internet Unit in its efforts to prevent counterfeiters from distributing fake products online have been highlighted in this review on several occasions. The key as always is to tackle the problem as a whole, with the emphasis on effectiveness.
Faced with the proliferation of websites selling counterfeit goods, the FH decided in 2010 to start a research project with a view to developing a monitoring system able to lead the fight against “replica” sites. Two years later, the project has become a reality and since 1st October the Internet Unit has had a highly effective tool at its disposal. The project, developed in partnership with the Technical and IT Division of Bern University of Applied Science (BFH), was designed with a “bottom up” approach based on requirements specified by the Internet Unit. It was purposely built to an open specification, so that with some adaptations it can be used in the fight against other counterfeit products.
The system allows the automatic acquisition and extraction of traces on the Internet, enabling visited sites to be classified and action to be taken against those identified as selling counterfeit goods, but above all providing the assurance of regular monitoring. Indeed until now the Internet Unit lacked the means to automatically monitor sites against which action had been taken. Counterfeiters react quickly and don’t hesitate to change hosts when their sites are closed down; they must therefore be pursued without respite. And the reactions of counterfeiters are as hoped: coinciding with numerous confirmations of site closures dispatched by web hosts, counterfeiters for their part have been quick to make known their dissatisfaction at being harassed in this way, thereby providing the best possible proof of how effective the system actually is.
In operational terms, the results speak for themselves. More than 900 sites dealt with in just a few weeks and over 8,500 formal notifications sent out, i.e. roughly the equivalent of a year’s work carried out hitherto by the Internet Unit. Not to mention that thanks to automatic checking, the monitoring of sites is now assured, with more than 250 already closed down. A record!
Of course the fight goes on and other sites will replace those taken down. However from a more strategic perspective, in less than six weeks the system has already provided a much more accurate picture of the phenomenon and in particular made it possible to detect the most problematic technical intermediaries, as well as host countries most frequently used by counterfeiters. What’s more, with this system the FH is able to identify countries where it is now feasible to bring concrete legal action against recalcitrant hosts.
Lastly, plans are already under way to provide a more detailed analysis of trends emerging from targeted sites. Indeed, the final objective still remains the identification of organised networks behind these sites and naturally their sources of supply, in concert with other anti-counterfeiting services of the FH and local agents on the markets.