Chirurgical masks: Solidarity vs counterfeiting in the time of coronavirus

by Graziana Ercolanelli, Criminal Lawyer, AKRAN Intellectual Property

Due to the current health crisis, the luxury and sports fashion sectors are facing an inevitable and disastrous downturn in the market

Nonetheless, many companies are demonstrating tremendous solidarity in favor of health care workers and facilities, through both direct financing and the donation of PPE and production machinery.

Masks, ventilators and sanitizing gel are the primary examples of products being produced by leading players in the luxury, sports fashion and automotive sectors, many of whom have converted a part of their production lines.

On the opposite front we are seeing the reaction of the counterfeiters, who have also suffered a heavy blow from the lockdown, which is far from solidarity but, rather, involves exploiting the health emergency for profit, keeping up with the new trends.   

On April 27, 2020 it was reported that the Finance Police of Naples had discovered a factory, in the small town of Ercolano, that had been converted from its original production of swimming costumes to that of protective masks bearing the trademarks of famous sports fashion brands, as well as those of the law enforcement authorities.   

Over 500 counterfeit masks, ready to be sold, were seized along with 3,000 graphic clichés, 10,000 semi-finished products, as well as the building itself and the equipment inside.

Around the same time, the Finance Police of Frascati discovered hundreds of protective masks in a retail outlet in Ciampino, near Rome, made with fabric that illicitly reproduced the colors and logos of the most well-known football teams in the Serie A championship. The charges made include detention for sale of counterfeit products and receiving stolen goods.

In addition to being seriously harmful to the companies which own the infringed trademarks, this type of counterfeiting is particularly insidious for the public health, concerning as it does individual protective devices whose ability to protect against infection is far from proven. For this reason, the Ministry of Economic Development recommends paying close attention when purchasing these products, using only official and authorized sales channels.


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