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The Role of the European Union in the Global Trade in Counterfeit Products


Project Description

The aim of this project is to examine the role of the European Union in the global trade in counterfeit products. The project will develop a framework to examine the infrastructure that enables, facilitates and creates opportunities for the global trade in counterfeit goods. In particular, research will focus on the networks and supply chain dynamics that facilitate the trade from, into and through the EU. The study will cover the EU context, whilst also considering the nature of the trade with the major counterfeit products source, China. The project will explore how licit and illicit businesses between China and EU countries are implicated in the transnational organisation of the counterfeit trade. Another particular area of exploration will be the significant role played by an ever-evolving technological infrastructure in the facilitation of counterfeit goods markets.

This research will adopt a mixed methods approach recognising the value of different sources of data to contribute to our understanding of the issue. The research will take place in 3 phases, which will allow the project to develop iteratively: Firstly, a literature review will be conducted in order to gain a better understanding of the business models present in counterfeit goods markets. As well as the small body of academic literature, this also includes research reports by academics, research institutes, governments, national and international law enforcement reports (EUROPOL, INTERPOL, etc.), reports by international organisations (UNODC), professional associations, and/or private companies that are either affected by specific types of counterfeiting (e.g. British American Tobacco) or commissioned to conduct research on a specific market by a client (e.g. KPMG).

Secondly, a (UK-based) virtual ethnography will be conducted for a minimum of six months to develop new understandings of supply-side dynamics, cultures of consumption, and the role of technology in relation to counterfeit goods markets.

Thirdly, in-depth interviews will be carried out with law-enforcement, judicial, relevant government officials, academics and researchers, and other actors such as investigative journalists and lawyers with specialist knowledge on counterfeiting in a variety of EU countries. Interviews with retired and active criminal entrepreneurs will also be attempted.

Application Web Page

Applicants must apply using the online form on the University Alliance website at https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/cofund/how-to-apply/. Full details of the programme, eligibility details and a list of available research projects can be seen at https://unialliance.ac.uk/dta/cofund/


The final deadline for application is 12 April 2019.

Funding Notes

DTA3/COFUND participants will be employed for 36 months with a minimum salary of (approximately) £20,989 per annum. Tuition fees will waived for DTA3/COFUND participants who will also be able to access an annual DTA elective bursary to enable attendance at DTA training events and interact with colleagues across the Doctoral Training Alliance(s).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801604.

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