Die beiden Audi Markenschützer bei der Arbeit am Schreibtisch

On the hunt of plagiarisms III: If it says Audi, it should be Audi

How Audi employees fight trademark infringements

The Four Rings stand for Audi. But more and more fakes on the market are clouding this statement. Dealers are distributing illegal counterfeits from China all over the world under the Audi name. Blog author Julia Rothecker asked Audi Brand Protectors how they dedicate their daily work towards protecting the brand and its customers.

Fälschungen aus China
Plagiarisms are not always visible at first glance. This is why the experts from Audi Brand Protection fight for customer safety.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – according to this Chinese wisdom, Serhyi Jewtymowycz took the first step in his mission of product and brand protection at Audi around ten years ago in China. With a test purchase on the Asian market, he laid the foundation for his hunt for counterfeiters.
Today he no longer has to travel to Asia to purchase counterfeits, as online platforms have become their focal point of sales.

And this is where the brand protector comes in…

A water pump branded as the “Four Rings” is sold on eBay as an Audi spare part. The price is far below the price of the manufacturer Audi. A tempting offer for car owners, where many cannot resist.

Serhyi strikes as well. But not for a bargain. The water pump is an important indicator: an indicator for determining counterfeiters.

It won’t be long before the product lands on his desk. It takes even less time for him to identify it as plagiarism. In 99 percent of the cases, Serhyi recognizes a fake at first glance. Over the past 35 years, he was able to acquire expertise in various areas at Audi.

“The tools from that spare parts are made provide important clues. In the production of plagiarism, certain properties are often missing, but these are what determine the quality of original Audi parts,” Serhyi explains. A detailed comparison of Audi parts and counterfeits or material samples reveals the differences.

Auf der Suche nach Indizien untersucht Serhyi Autoteile im Lager.
To be able to later retrace which parts are imitated and sold by Chinese counterfeiters, the Audi Brand Protector Serhyi stores countless counterfeits.

In the case of this water pump, however, it’s even easier due to spelling mistakes on the packaging and poor workmanship. What’s more, it even contains the Audi logo. But this spare part is clearly a fake.

Rechtschreibfehler geben erste Aufschlüsse, ob es sich um ein Plagiat handelt, oder nicht.

If there are obvious spelling mistakes on the car part’s packaging, buyers should be warned: This is usually the first indication of counterfeiting.

Legal measures serve as a deterrent

A common name is specified as the sender of the package. Certainly not the real identity of the merchant who feels safe enough through the anonymity of the internet.
It’s clearly a case for the law. And this is where Theresa Bartoszek comes in – one of the three fully qualified lawyers in the department. She has been working as an in-house counsel at Audi for two years and fights against trademark infringements on a legal level.

Theresa Bartoszek ist eine der Anwältinnen, die bei Audi gegen Markenschutzverletzungen kämpft
Theresa knows the legal world of counterfeiting: Not only does she monitors current cases, but also observe changes in the legal system.

Serhyi and Theresa both agree that any case providing a legal basis must be prosecuted. Only this can lead to the greatest possible deterrence. Selling products under the trademarked Audi name in business transactions is punishable by law. The legal measures range from warnings to civil actions and criminal proceedings.

The trade in counterfeit goods is no longer a trivial offence. In Germany, prison sentences of up to five years are possible.

Cooperation between Audi and the authorities

The close cooperation with the authorities is particularly important. While Audi supports the prosecution of counterfeiters, it is the task of the authorities to sentence them. Theresa and Serhyi support the investigation with precise documentation and sufficient evidence, or through their expertise in identifying plagiarism. They appear as witnesses or joint plaintiffs in court.
Audi also works hand in hand with customs. “A border seizure application allows random samples of distrustful packages and containers to be inspected and suspicious goods to be forwarded to us,” says Theresa. If Audi employees can clearly identify counterfeits, the counterfeits are retained by the customs authorities and at best, destroyed. Serhyi meticulously documents the addresses of the recipients and senders to trace the parts.

Die Audi Markenschützer arbeiten Hand in Hand mit den chinesischen Behörden.

The Audi brand protectors work hand in hand with the Chinese authorities to combat the production of counterfeits at the source.

Trade in counterfeit products is a global problem

Many counterfeits originate from China – but they are not just a Chinese problem. Although about 90 percent of counterfeit products are produced in China, its trade has spread worldwide. The U.S., Russia and Europe are the focus of dealers’ attention. And in the middle of it all: Germany, the home of the Audi brand and one of the main sales markets.

Wherever in the world the dealers sell fakes, brand protectors aren’t far.
“Persecution in the Dutch market is particularly effective at the moment. Especially due to their special feature which, in addition to the interrogation of suspects, also allows accounts to be frozen. This financial constraint puts additional pressure on traders, providing us with background information and a rapid agreement,” says Theresa.
This closes the loop, because this background information can provide important information about the dealer network.

Eine Landkarte zeigt die Regionen, die besonders von Plagiaten betroffen sind.
Serhyi shows in which markets dealers sell counterfeit products and in which regions the Audi Brand Protection team has already enjoyed success.

Strategic action against counterfeiters

One case leads to the next: A huge puzzle is the result of various addresses on parcels and business cards and payment tracing or references in interrogations. And every new case is a piece of a puzzle that can be used to supplement the overall picture of the network of relationships.
If the investigations raise suspicions that the distributor is dealing with counterfeit goods on a large scale, raiding storage rooms is also possible.
The home of plagiarism, however, is the Chinese counterfeiting capital Wenzhou. Here, Audi parts are forged on a large scale. Weekly raids on the production sites are intended to combat the problem at the source, so that counterfeits cannot make it into global trade. Serhyi pays a visit every once in a while, to see if everything is in order and to stop the counterfeiters…

Find out more about the circumstances in counterfeiting operations in the next article.

The production of counterfeits

The majority of counterfeit production takes place in China. To prevent the emergence of new counterfeits and to prosecute the counterfeiters, trademark protectors intervene as additional support for the authorities.

Wenzhou is called the capital of plagiarism. Daily raids take place in production and storage rooms.

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The Four Rings of the Audi brand are trademarked. The counterfeiters, however, are trying to make money out of the brand by selling counterfeit products under its name.

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Counterfeits have already become a product of mass production.

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