Brunner about Product Piracy Report 2023: Strong customs organisation protects both consumers and the economy
Seizures with a value of goods totalling 36 million euros; corresponds to a six-fold increase in confiscated goods.

In 2023, customs in Austria uncovered 7,072 cases of product piracy and initiated 14,061 proceedings. As a result, a total of 194,165 counterfeit items were confiscated. This shows how resolutely and efficiently customs is taking action against brand and product piracy and counterfeiting. These measures not only led to the confiscation of counterfeit goods worth almost 36 million euros, but also strengthened sectors that are particularly adversely affected by trademark infringements. According to a study conducted by the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights (EUIPO) in 2022, these industries account for 29.8% of all jobs in Austria and contribute 44.2% to gross domestic product.

"In some countries, entire industries are involved in the production of cheap copies. Counterfeiters and their "companies" now operate like well-organised firms on an industrial scale. Last year's results clearly show how crucial the efforts of our customs authorities are in the fight against product piracy. I would like to thank all customs officers for their hard work and commitment. Our fight against product piracy will go on tirelessly in order to protect our economy, our health and our environment," said Finance Minister Magnus Brunner.

Success through improved risk analyses

In 2023, Austrian customs made 7,072 seizures of counterfeit goods, an increase of 77% compared to the previous year. In terms of confiscated articles (194,165), an increase of 586% was achieved compared to 2022. The increase in confiscations is due to increased monitoring activities, especially in postal traffic. The improvement in risk analysis and risk assessment also contributed significantly to the increase in seizures and confiscations of counterfeit goods, especially at Vienna Airport.

The challenge of e-commerce

A particular challenge is posed by e-commerce, through which counterfeits are increasingly being brought into circulation. Austrian customs have made a significant contribution to effectively combating this type of product piracy through targeted checks on postal traffic and increased surveillance at Vienna Airport. In 2023, 6,973 consignments containing counterfeits ordered online were intercepted via postal traffic alone. That is around 99% of all consignments that contained counterfeits. However, due to the small size of packages sent through the post, "only" 17,864 counterfeit items were confiscated.

The situation in the area of counterfeit medicines remains alarming. Although a decrease of 40% was recorded compared to the previous year, the number of counterfeit and illegal medicines imported into Austria remains worryingly high at 6,734 shipments and 801,863 units of various medicines. These products, which are not only harmful to the economy but also potentially life-threatening, pose a significant threat to public health.

Exceptional pick-ups: Tens of thousands of counterfeit accessories and mobile phone items

At Vienna Airport, customs officers seized around two tonnes of counterfeit goods during an air freight inspection in mid-January 2023. The customs authorities found 44,830 counterfeit products belonging to various product groups and brands in 73 boxes that were to be transported from China to Poland via Austria. These included 14,564 pairs of counterfeit sunglasses, 23,060 mobile phone accessories, 1,640 pairs of sports shoes and 308 luxury handbags.

Customs staff uncovered a similar case during a special inspection in September 2023. The consignment came from China and was to be transported onwards to Poland. More than 10,000 mobile phone covers, 1,372 smartwatches and more than 3,000 key rings were found.

During an additional risk-orientated priority check, customs officials discovered a total of 21,744 counterfeit branded products in 344 cartons. The six consignments from Hong Kong were also destined for Poland and included a wide range of electronic goods, watches and fashion accessories. The goods were confiscated and destroyed under the supervision of customs officers.

In the course of a goods inspection by officers of the Vienna Customs Office, more than 15,000 slippers and 9,000 rucksacks were found to be suspected of infringing the rights of a well-known sporting goods manufacturer. The goods had entered the European Union via the port of Hamburg and were taken by lorry to Vienna for customs clearance. The consignment, with a total weight of almost ten tonnes, was destroyed under customs supervision.