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Research Campaign Against Product Piracy

Product piracy poses an enormous threat to innovation and competitiveness in Germany’s capital goods industry. Protection against product piracy is also becoming increasingly important. The fields of mechanical and plant engineering are particularly affected by the problem of illegal imitations. It is estimated that the damage amounts to up to €5 billion each year, and that tens of thousands of jobs are lost as a result of this practice. Due to the key role of this industry, research is needed in order to find effective prevention and protection mechanisms and make them available to companies at risk.
For these reasons, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) started the research offensive “Innovations against Product Piracy” in 2008, as part of the High-Tech Strategy 2020. In ten joint projects,  innovative businesses, research institutions and relevant service providers have developed new, particularly effective measures to combat illegal imitations of machines, services and replacement parts.

In addition to industrial property rights, many production companies lack the systematic approaches necessary to protect their products and manufacturing processes from the increasing threat of product piracy. In many cases, comprehensive protection is only possible by integrating construction-related, production-related and IT-based approaches, among others. That is why research against product piracy aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises in particular protect themselves more effectively against counterfeiters and imitators.  


  • Design of products and of development, manufacturing and marketing processes that are difficult to reproduce
  • Marking of products and systems to help monitor tracing efforts
  • Development of comprehensive protection concepts
  • Innovation platform to support the prevention of product piracy in the capital goods industry


  • The BMBF supports research projects that aim to find ways of making machines, services and spare parts almost impossible to copy. In addition, development, manufacturing and marketing processes need to be organized in such a way that neither product nor process knowledge is easily accessible.
  • Cost-effective and forgery-proof tagging and authentication procedures for both products and processes need to be developed.
  • Furthermore, comprehensive protection concepts need to be created by combining individual technological, organizational and legal options.
  • In order to pool the wide range of expected activities of the collaborative projects, the accompanying measure “ConImit – Contra Imitation” was introduced. Its aim is to support the effective transfer of measures and processes against product piracy in industry. The innovation platform consists of communication and cooperation mechanisms, an internet-based information platform, and a network of partners who have methods and knowledge in the field of preventative intellectual property protection at their disposal.


The preliminary study “IP protection: scope for action against product piracy in the manufacturing industry” summarized the necessary measures and the first results. The study will help raise awareness of product piracy among companies so that, when developing new products and related processes, they recognize the piracy risks that their product is exposed to. The findings can be summarized as follows:

  • The threat of product piracy is on the rise.
  • Product piracy causes economic damage.
  • Product piracy is a dynamic process – former pirates can become serious competitors.
  • Legal protection alone is not enough.
  • Interdisciplinary, cross-company action is needed.
  • Real protection against product piracy can only be achieved through the use of systematic and strategy-conformant methods.
  • Protection against product piracy is also the responsibility of management and must be addressed by the entire company.
  • Fighting against piracy is the joint responsibility of companies, authorities, professional associations, policy-makers and the scientific community.
  • Established methods for the design of products, processes and information need to undergo continuous development in order to provide protection against piracy.
  • Innovative new protection approaches and methods are urgently needed.


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© 09/05/2015 00:57 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung