Counterfeit Vehicle Parts On the Rise: When IP Infringement Becomes Life-Threatening

Tuesday 21st August 2018
Article written by: Thomas Huthwaite

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has issued a stern warning about counterfeit vehicle parts.  Not only are counterfeit parts on the rise, but they are also becoming more difficult to identify, and can present a serious danger.

This year, BMW published a video illustrating the potential consequences of fitting counterfeit vehicle parts.[1]  Their tests showed counterfeit parts resulted in an additional 14 to 25m of additional stopping distance when brakes were applied at 100km/h. This is an additional 36% to 66%.

In February 2018, the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) estimated that €2.2 billion is lost every year by the legitimate parts industry to counterfeit tyre sales, and €180 million each year due to counterfeit battery sales.[2]  This is7.5% and 1.8% of each sector’s sales, respectively.  The EUIPO report does not take into account the most common counterfeit vehicle parts, which include filters, lights, wheel rims, grills, cables, and even brake pads and air bags.[3]


                  (image from


The UKIPO has now joined forces with various auto industry groups, sales platforms, and relevant government bodies.  Their two-pronged campaign seeks  to warn consumers about the dangers of counterfeit vehicle parts, and to prosecute those selling counterfeit parts.

The UKIPO’s new guidelines include the following tips on how to identify and avoid buying fake car parts:[4]

  • Consider price and location; 
  • Research the seller;
  • Sub-standard parts can be dangerous and can affect your vehicle warranty;
  • Genuine manufacturers will be able to supply you with a certificate of Original Equipment (OE) matching quality;
  • “One size fits all” products are likely to be even more dangerous and/or damaging to your vehicle.
  • Online marketplaces such as eBay[1] and Amazon[2] have guidance on how to report counterfeit products, and the refunds process; and
  • If in doubt, check directly with the manufacturer or your local authorised dealer.

Australia and New Zealand are experiencing a similar trend.  Australian Border Force now officially lists “Car parts” as one of the most common categories of seized counterfeit goods, yet we continue to encounter counterfeit parts in both marketplaces and through various online sales platforms.

For years, both the Toyota Australia and the Australian Motor Traders Association have been vocal about the continued use of asbestos in counterfeit brake pads.  In 2015 Toyota Australia took action in the Federal Court against two distributors of counterfeit airbags.  Earlier this year Holden issued warnings over potentially “thousands” of counterfeit bonnets designed for the Commodore after Holden’s testing found the bonnets could unlatch and fly open, or otherwise fall on mechanics working underneath.[7]

Unlike in the UK, where industry bodies have established a collaboration (including with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit), enforcement in Australia and New Zealand rests almost entirely with the intellectual property rights holder.  While this creates a burden for responsible rights holders, there are a number of things we can do to help rights holders maintain a healthy marketplace.  It is also possible to collaborate with other regulatory bodies, or even the New Zealand Police, particularly where public safety is a concern.

Baldwins provides comprehensive protection, monitoring, and enforcement programs, in collaboration with Customs officers, consumer watchdogs, and various marketplace trust and safety teams. 

Depending on your needs, we can recommend:

  • border protection strategies;
  • training for frontline officials;
  • online marketplace searches;
  • takedown requests; and
  • various other enforcement options, including infringement proceedings.  

If you are concerned about counterfeit goods, please contact us today for a tailored program.








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