Unintended consequences

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Fighting online counterfeiting may come at the cost of business

Taking action against counterfeiters is a worthy endeavour. Yet the chances of total victory may be slim, not least because the enemy in question has infiltrated the warp and weft of the marketplace, and society as a whole. As such, while putting in place robust regulation to fight this scourge, it is important to understand that the rapid pace of change in the digital world can provide the perfect cover for the counterfeiter.

Numerous companies, both in India and outside, have attempted to tackle the risks posed by counterfeit products. At Alibaba, which has had its fair share of run-ins with regulators on this count, CEO Daniel Zhang has described counterfeiters as being “like bacteria in the air that we breathe”.

This is an interesting comparison. But what if, like drug-resistant bacteria, counterfeiters too learn to dodge the barrage of regulatory missiles being fired in their direction? This is naturally concerning for rights owners – many of whom will be in Boston next month to attend the 141st annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA). India Business Law Journal will be there too, and this issue of the magazine will be circulating widely among delegates.

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