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Evaluating the Issue of Counterfeit Parts

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The illegal production and worldwide sales of counterfeit BMW parts, accessories and lifestyle articles has increased substantially in recent years. Roughly $45 billion in counterfeit auto parts were sold and manufactured in 2014, according to Havocscope, a black market intelligence assessment site. According to BMW estimates, only 10 percent of counterfeit parts are seized, while the rest remain unreported.  

To help stop the distribution of counterfeit parts, BMW of North America has created a brand protection program. Melissa Costa, brand protection manager at BMW of North America, recently discussed why repairers need to pay attention to the issue of counterfeit parts and what BMW is doing about it.

Can you explain the issue of counterfeit parts? 

To understand counterfeiting, it is important to first define it as the imitation of a product with the unauthorized use of another’s trademark. Basically, a counterfeit part is non-genuine, non-original.  

When people hear of counterfeit products, they typically think of counterfeit money, clothing, perfume and handbags, rather than automotive parts.  

Counterfeiting deceives the customer into believing they are buying an original product produced according to the quality standards set by the manufacturer. 

The quality of counterfeit products is always questionable as the products’ material and functional abilities are unknown, thus making the counterfeit product potentially unsafe.

Why has the production and sales of counterfeit parts become more prevalent in recent years?

There are many factors that contribute to the rise in counterfeiting. From the consumer perspective, the main driving factor is cost. From the producer and distributor perspective, counterfeit products have a greater illicit profitability potential than original manufactured parts. 

People attempt to cut out the “middleman” and turn to the Internet for a better price, thereby putting themselves at risk for potentially purchasing a counterfeit product at a lower price. Another factor to consider is that counterfeiting has been linked to other criminal activity, such as money laundering, identity fraud, organized crime, etc. The potential for illicit profit and the ability to easily mask their identity on the Internet attracts criminals to this illegal activity with severe consequences to both the seller and purchaser.  

How can a shop owner tell if they encounter a counterfeit part? 

Since shop owners deal with parts throughout the day, they are often more attuned to spotting counterfeits. They may become suspicious of a part’s quality, appearance, packaging, or pricing.  Should they come across such products, they should report them to the respective automotive company. Should they discover a suspicious BMW product or part, they can report it via e-mail.

What is the BMW brand protection program’s goal? 

Our goals are to protect the customer, our intellectual property rights, and our brand against counterfeiting.  To achieve these goals, BMW created a global brand protection team. The team is comprised of people who actively and diligently partner with law enforcement and private investigators to identify the production and sale of counterfeiting products and take appropriate legal action where necessary.  

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