The Department of Economic Development’s Intellectual Property Rights division warned that counterfeiters were getting more innovative. Picture for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: More than 12 million counterfeit mobile phones and mobile accessories were seized by the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai between January and September this year.

The counterfeit products were valued at more than Dh327.4 million.

Ebrahim Behzad, Head of Intellectual Property Rights division at DED, said intensive scrunity from authorities like the DED and Dubai Police led to counterfeiters “thinking up new and innovative ways to hide and make their counterfeit products”.

Behzad was speaking at the Emirates Intellectual Property Association (EIPA) conference on combating intellectual property crimes on Monday.

One of the DED’s raids that led to the seizure of 5,000 counterfeit bags took place in a shop that was farming fish and shrimps in International City.

Behzad said a DED inspector suspected a shop in the area was loading tanks containing live fish and shrimps and wanted to check if it was licenced to do so.

“We found tanks for farm fish and shrimps, and behind these tanks we found racks full of counterfeit branded bags,” he said.

Another major raid in 2016 resulted in a seizure of more than Dh30 million worth of counterfeit mobile phones and accessories, in addition to refurbished phones. “It was a workshop to refurbish old phones and sell them as if new. The workshop was in a villa,” Behzad said. “We raided it with the help of Dubai Police’s Anti-Economics Crime Department.”

More than 26,000 phones were seized, in addition to 1.3 million fake phone accessories.

“Consumers play a big role in the fight against counterfeit products — if they don’t buy them, it won’t be a lucrative business for counterfeiters,” Behzad said.

While counterfeit phones or designer items could seem harmless, they have a negative impact on the economy.

The dangers of fake products was also highlighted by Brian Monks, vice-president of Anti-Counterfeiting Operations at Underwriters Laboratories, who drew attention to counterfeit or fake fire protection devices such as sprinklers or smoke detectors. Use of such products can lead to serious consequences and loss of lives, Monks said.

“Counterfeiting can kill. If there is a fire, fire systems need to work. If these systems fail, our loved ones could be harmed,” he added.

Such devices and systems are usually tested to assure they work in cases of emergencies, Monk said, “and I can assure you that counterfeiters do not test their products”, he said.

Preventing these items from entering the market is one way to eradicate counterfeit products.

Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security, said counterfeit and fake products are a danger to society. “Combating this crime should not only be from police and municipal authorities or economic departments, but society also needs to take part in the efforts by not buying them and decreasing the demand for them,” he added.

The UAE, Lt Gen Dahi said, has an intellectual property law, but raising awareness about these laws and the dangers of counterfeit items will further help with efforts to combat it.

“This is one of the key purposes of holding such conferences. Counterfeiters do not follow safety specifications and standards, and those items can harm users. That is why we all need to work together to fight this,” he said.