Teddy bears, Marvel toys, Lego and Disney, LOL Surprise! Dolls were seized by the officers of Manchester City Council due to possible harm to children's health. The toys didn’t have a CE sign, all markings were made only in Chinese, the products didn’t have either a lot number, serial number, or any information about the manufacturer or the importer. In LOL Surprise! Dolls municipalities have discovered phthalates, a chemical substance that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system. After testing playdough for children, which looked normal at the first sight, experts found its level of toxicity was super high. Such playdough causes rash or allergy reaction when in contact with a child’s skin. Unfortunately, the controlling authorities do not always have time to detect counterfeit products in time and such toys get to children. Last year a 4-year-old boy got into an emergency department after swallowing 13 magnets from Magformers construction set which had fallen apart. The scandal was huge, but it eventually appeared that the set was a Chinese forgery.
Certainly, when buying a toy for their kid, adults should be more careful with its selection. Low price and a bright tag do not mean that this toy should be bought. It’s essential to pay attention to the differences between a brand toy and a counterfeit. The original product should not have a strong smell, the package and the product itself have to be in a good condition, have natural colors, the description of the product and the instruction should be issued in the language of the manufacturer and country where the product is purchased, and of course, there should be a distinctive brand logo on the package.
However, the brand owners have to fight against the counterfeit in the first place. Especially now, when online shopping is more popular than offline. Market places with millions of offers of both original products and fakes are not formally responsible for the sale of counterfeit products, and it’s impossible to block the entire website.
In the European Union, a famous American approach “safe harbor” was applied, the online marketplace is released from the responsibility for the violation of trademark rights, if there is an option to file a complaint and if the marketplace reacts to it – deletes the content, blocks the seller, etc.
Thus, this rule doesn’t work if the marketplace plays an active role in the right infringement process. For instance, it was promoting or advertising counterfeit products on the website. If the owner of the website didn’t take any action, but he/she was informed that the ad violated the property rights, and had not carried out any actions to block/delete it, “safe harbor” does not protect them.
Besides the owners of such online marketplaces, the brand owners also contribute to tracking and counterfeit minimization. Digital technologies of the new generation allow the consumer to verify the origin of the product and establish a connection with the brand. For example, the use of microvariations of the barcode, which is a sort of a “fingerprint” of each toy. Using a smartphone for canning and authentification, the consumer receives all necessary data regarding the product, starting with the name of the manufacturing brands to the transportation and product location. This not only protects the manufacturer from a bad reputation, and the customer from counterfeit, but also gives the brands possibilities for incredibly targeted marketing.
It's great to realize that the owners of the brands constantly find new ways of protecting themselves and their buyers. Especially, if these consumers are mainly children. However, we all should understand that even the most successful team of the most successful brand can not track every toy in the world. Swindlers in turn also don’t hold still and invent new ways of counterfeit sale regardless of all means of protection. It means that while choosing a doll, a teddy bear, a construction set, etc., adults have to pay more attention to this issue. Notice the details. Natural colors, the absence of strong smells and damages, the presence of a brand logo, and a bar-code together will provide your child with an interesting and, most importantly, safe leisure time.