Paris, Aug 8 (EFE) .- In a palace in Paris that the visitor must ring the bell to enter, there is a small museum that has gone from training customs agents to showing the general public the secrets of counterfeiting , a phenomenon that represents about 5% of world trade.
Not everything is luxury bags and watches: creams, household appliances, works of art, baby carriages or car hoods reflect that the copies affect a wide variety of products, often without the user being able to perceive the differences.
The Union of Manufacturers to Combat Counterfeiting (Unifab) opened it in 1951 to instruct future experts in the fight against this plague, and in 1972, coinciding with the centenary of that association, it opened its doors to all types of public.
About 10,000 people now cross the threshold of a building each year that, paradoxically, is a copy of the rear façade of the Elysee Presidential Palace and was erected in 1899 in what was then the rural periphery of Paris.
A UNIQUE MUSEUM
This Museum of Counterfeiting claims to be the only one of its kind in the world: “We have all kinds of products that have been copied and seized by the police, customs or the gendarmerie of all countries in the world,” explains EFE the CEO of Unifab, Delphine Sarfati-Sobreira.
The natural fate of these objects would have been their destruction, but their exhibition has a didactic will and is nourished both by these seizures in collaboration with public authorities and by donations from affected companies.
Not surprisingly, behind its creation was Gaston Louis Vuitton, grandson of the founder of the luxury house Louis Vuitton and then president of Unifab, today made up of companies such as Balenciaga, L’Oréal or Bulgari.
The methods used by counterfeiters are varied. The art dealer Guy Hain, for example, legally bought an original mold of Rodin’s The Kiss in the 1960s and went on to sell one of the numerous copies he made of that sculpture for 4.5 million francs.
Other times, the replicas imitate the logos of the brands or trace the original product in a seemingly reliable way, pretending to be it fraudulently.
ECONOMIC AND SANITARY IMPACT
“Counterfeiting has economic repercussions for countries and health, because consumers can have accidents. For example, a pen should allow you to breathe if you swallow the cap, something that never happens with counterfeits,” says Sarfati-Sobreira.
The BIC pen is one of about 500 objects displayed in their cabinets alongside the originals. Irons for the hair, sports shirts, perfumes or parts for the car are others that allow us to verify the extent of this phenomenon.
Among them, a copy of the 2014 World Cup. In April of that year, some 10,000 were intercepted in China. They weighed 4 kilos, two less than the original, which would end up in the hands of the German soccer team.
Although the copying of small electrical appliances is increasingly widespread, it is not without risks: they do not respect European regulations, there is a danger of overheating, they are made with less resistant materials and they lack after-sales service.
A watchful eye discovers the worst quality of the copy, subtle differences in the colors, a different typeface in the logos or more imperceptible changes, such as that a fake cream does not have the necessary anti-allergy drugs.
A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON
The Internet and the expansion of electronic commerce have made the work of the authorities difficult. “Before you had to travel, go to Asia or Morocco, to bring fake products. Today anyone can buy them with their computer or mobile phone”, emphasizes the CEO of Unifab.
Since 2010, there has been an increase in the shipment of counterfeit pieces separately to limit losses in case of confiscation.
The impact of this fraud is global: in 2018, as the international police agency Interpol reminds EFE, two global operations and five regional operations in 115 countries led to the seizure of 22,377 tons of illicit products, valued at about 140 million dollars, and arrest or fine 4,129 people.
But the responsibility belongs to everyone: “The best way to truly stop this crime is not buying (counterfeit products). To do this, we must pay attention to where we do it: buying a luxury product in a market is not natural,” he concludes the Unifab representative.
(c) EFE Agency