The International Trademark Association (INTA) has named Unilever global anti-counterfeiting head Richard Heath as its president for 2009.

Heath will take over from Mars senior lawyer Rhonda Steele at the start of 2009 and has earmarked tackling counterfeiters in the world’s new economic powers his top priority.

Heath told The Lawyer that he is currently working with criminal investigation organisations such as Interpol, as well as the Chinese government, to reduce counterfeiting.

It is significant that INTA has appointed a counterfeiting expert as president as it aims to raise the profile of its anti-counterfeiting efforts.

Heath said: “Asia and Africa are where the problem is greatest at the moment. There is an awful amount of counterfeiting there and a lot government relationship work.”

Heath was head of trademarks at Unilever for 10 years until his appointment as global anti-counterfeiting chief in January 2006, marking the first time Unilever committed someone to the role full-time.

Unilever manages its anti-counterfeiting measures from London. The company employs a central group, led by Heath, which coordinates its regional teams in ‘hot spot’ jurisdictions.

Heath said that there are currently no plans to grow the group, but that the company would reinforce its local teams ahead of management if resources were needed.