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Frequently Asked Questions

1. I’ve heard that the range of counterfeit/pirated goods has changed in the last few years. How so?

Organized crime is no longer just manufacturing counterfeit luxury goods and distributing them at flea markets. These criminal groups now see opportunities to make fast money by manufacturing cheap copies of everyday products such as toys, pharmaceuticals, electrical devices (extension cords to MP3 players) and personal grooming products (shampoo to toothpaste). They prey on the common desire of many consumers to save money when making purchases. However, these savings may come at the price of safety (see examples in question 2).

2. What are the consequences and possible dangers of purchasing counterfeit products?

When you purchase a counterfeit product you may be:

  • placing yourself or your family in danger. Counterfeiters spend nothing on quality control. They do not care what happens to consumers who buy and use sub-standard counterfeit products.
    Examples:
    • Counterfeit electrical devices have caught fire causing injury and serious damage to property.
    • Counterfeit pharmaceutical products often contain no active ingredients or, worse still, toxic ingredients and have caused death.
    • Counterfeit children’s clothing containing no fire retardant.
  • funding organized crime or terrorist groups.
  • hurting the legitimate economy resulting in the loss of jobs/tax revenue.

3. What should I do if I suspect I’ve purchased a counterfeit product?

Check the Health Canada website or the manufacturer to determine if a warning has been issued about the specific product.

Other websites with information on counterfeit goods include:

4. How can I ensure that the product I am buying is not counterfeit/pirated?

Buying licensed products from reputable retailers will reduce the possibility of a consumer’s exposure to counterfeit/pirated goods.

Some indicators that goods may be counterfeit/pirated include:

  • Price is much lower than average.
  • Packaging has a shoddy appearance or spelling mistakes.
  • Products normally sold in packages are being sold individually.
  • Products (particularly electrical) are of poor quality and/or lacking name brand or certification.

5. If I contact the police or the company because I think I’ve purchased a counterfeit/pirated product, can I get into trouble?

Possession of counterfeit/pirated items is not a criminal offence, in Canada, as long as there is no intent to distribute the items. The consequences of purchasing counterfeit products are outlined in the response to question #2.

6. I have a friend who downloads music from the internet. Is he breaking the law?

Downloading music for personal use is not a criminal offence in Canada. Such downloading, however, may constitute copyright infringement and could expose your friend to liability in a civil proceeding.

7. Where can I get more information about crimes involving counterfeit/pirated goods?

Private sector organization web sites include:

Law enforcement agencies such as Interpol have websites that deal with Intellectual Property crime.

8. When does the RCMP investigate counterfeit/pirated products?

Law enforcement investigates commercial operations that are manufacturing, importing and/or distributing fraudulent or trademark-forged goods.

Sections 380(1) and 406-412 of the Criminal Code provide legislative authority to bring charges in fraud cases.

In cases where an artistic work of a trade-mark has been illegally reproduced, Sections 42 (1) and (2) of the Copyright Act provide the legislative authority to bring such violations before the Court.

The RCMP is particularly interested in the investigation of counterfeit products posing health and safety risks to Canadians or where organized crime groups are involved. The RCMP focuses on intellectual property crime investigations that are large scale or in which intelligence indicates there is a possibility to "target upwards." In the latter case, investigations have the potential to expand beyond the retail level and target the highest level responsible for the counterfeit goods (e.g. the wholesale distributors of a counterfeit product or the product importers/manufacturers).