“It’s always a success for me to detect a trademark infringer and take legal action against them”, says Serhyi Jewtymowycz. He’s the subject specialist for brand protection at Audi. Serhyi and the Audi Brand Protection Team have proven that more than once: In the past 10 years, he took part in more than 300 raids in China and in around 50 raids in Europe. Theresa Bartoszek, the team’s in-house legal counsel, has dealt with 200 counterfeits in both civil and criminal court over the last two years.
The challenge of digitization – E-commerce and counterfeit software
The digitization brings major change to the Automotive industry. Counterfeiteres are well aware of that. They’re specializing on software and data sets and sell them using the name of the Four Rings. The last part of the blog series “On the hunt for plagiarisms” shows how the Audi Brand Protection fight against this and sheds light on how they are preparing for the digital age.
E-Commerce facilitates counterfeit trade
And the number of counterfeit purchases continues to grow. That’s connected to E-Commerce, because the barrier of buying online is definitely lower than in retail trade. “For the consumer it’s easy, comfortable, cheap and he feels safe”, Serhyi tries to sum up the digital consumer behavior”, but he often forgets about the dangers that counterfeit products entail”. Customs may keep packages with suspicious contents (even though they were purchases from a private consumer) and inform the Audi Brand Protection Team. If the suspicion is true, the products are subsequently collected and destroyed.
Counterfeiters adapt to future trends
Since a couple of years, the Audi Brand Protection Team is facing major challenges: The automobile industry is changing. The buzzwords for the future of mobility are digitization, e-mobility, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. The counterfeiters haven’t missed that. They’re not only forging “physical” car parts, but software and data sets as well. “The data is difficult for us to grasp. Digitization requires a different kind of work and more experts for our team”, Serhyi explains.
The Audi Brand Protection Team is ready for digitization
Theresa constantly educates herself and tries to find new tools that help to identify the forgers. “We have to be one step ahead”, Theresa says and explains their future strategy. “That doesn’t mean that fake car parts such as fake oil filters or brake pads will be appearing less. But there will be more fields of work, similar to the fake software trade.
The Audi Brand Protection Team addresses this challenge confidently. “That’s when Old School meets New School: I’m the oldest one among the team and equipped with long-standing experience. I’m supported by younger colleagues with a lot of expertise in the digital world.”, says Audi Brand Protector Serhyi.
A huge success: confiscating fake navigation software
A recent case revolving around fake navigation software shows that the Audi Brand Protection Team is ready for the problems the future might bring. A criminal gang from Germany sold fake software on the internet. They were already known to the police. “We detected the counterfeits in our internet monitoring and were able to provide the police with important clues”, Theresa explains. The authorities collected hundreds of thousands of data carriers in the subsequent house raids. They also found weapons and narcotics. “This case indicates that Germany is an important market for the dealers”, Theresa explains. That’s why the goal for the years to come will be to get counterfeit products off the market and thus protect consumers and Audi customers.
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