Many consumers love fakes. It is not unusual to find, in Morocco, a counterfeit Chanel bag at MAD2,000 (EUR185), or Gucci sneakers at MAD1,500 (EUR138). Counterfeit items are often made with materials that are as close as possible to those used in the originals even if the difference in quality is at least significant (i.e. natural leather for bags and shoes and cotton or wool for clothing). No detail escapes the counterfeiter, including the serial number inside designer handbags and authenticity cards included with other products. Counterfeiters even argue that these fakes have been manufactured on the same production lines as the major brands – indeed, in Morocco, there are luxury brand subcontracting workshops. Even if the main victims of counterfeiting are foreign brands, some national brands are now beginning to suffer from this situation. Counterfeiting does not only affect luxury products : counterfeiters mainly target brands that benefit from consumer confidence. Obsessed shoppers, who may have the financial means to buy anything, often prefer to buy a good replica rather than spend a fortune on an original item whose value for some brands, they argue, drops as soon as it leaves the store. Furthermore, according to operators who are very familiar with commercial sector practices, many counterfeit items are imported legally (duties and taxes are paid), then displayed and sold not on the street but in stores.
But counterfeiting is a real danger for Morocco’s economy and for the Moroccan consumer. At national level, the harmful impact of counterfeiting on the economy is estimated in the billions of euros. In addition, counterfeiting generates an annual tax loss of nearly EUR100 million, as well as 30,000 jobs losses or unregistered employments.
Recognizing that the fight against counterfeiting is an urgent economic necessity, Moroccan authorities have developed a broad array of weapons, ranging from preventive measures such as strengthening border controls, raising consumer awareness of the dangers of counterfeit products, to repressive measures such as the campaigns carried out by specialized customs brigades and financial penalties, such as higher fines for repeat offenders. Moroccan courts have become a bastion in the fight against counterfeiting, enabled by the promulgation on February 15, 2000 of Law n° 17-97 on industrial property, as amended by Law N° 31-05 of April 14, 2006.
The offer to sell a counterfeit product constitutes counterfeiting as long as the person who made it knows or is supposed to know the counterfeit nature of the product. When this person happens to be a retailer, he is presumed to know the difference between an original product and a counterfeit product and, if not known, must conduct the necessary research to determine the origin of the products it sells. The Commercial Court of Appeal of Casablanca has confirmed this principle more than once, reminding that the trader has an obligation of vigilance with regard to his supplier and the origin of his goods. The court is required to take into consideration the points of similarity and not the points of difference between the original products and the alleged counterfeits, when it has to adjudicate on an act of counterfeiting.
In more recent times, the news around counterfeits in Morocco has been mixed. A 2016 customs administration report mentions more than 500 cases related to requests for suspension of the release of counterfeit goods. An OECD study concluded that Moroccan free zones, which benefit from lower taxes and lighter customs controls, are a factor that promotes counterfeiting. Despite the tightening of financial penalties in 2018, more than 2.25 million counterfeit items seized and the goodwill of the courts, in practice, infringers are most often subject to significant financial penalties, while the injured parties would have liked the counterfeit articles to be destroyed.
In summary, while counterfeit goods have a harmful impact on Morocco's economy, the battle against fake products is still being fought.