Thursday, February 25, 2010

Counterfeiting, Adapt or Perish

By: Alan Clock, Senior Vice President, XStream Systems

"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative." - H.G. Wells

For those of us knowledgeable about the issue of counterfeiting, we have long been aware of the huge growing menace that has seemingly lurked in the shadows of the collective consciousness of the public at large for some time now.

Even for those who have been at the forefront of this serious threat, which the FBI dubs “the crime of the 21st century”, currently there seems to be a heightened sense of concern about how quickly this criminal activity is proliferating. It would appear now that this threat is advancing well beyond even our own alarmist predictions.

To date, much of the death and destruction associated with counterfeiting activity has occurred off the radar screen from the populace of privileged, developed nations and instead in the isolated world of underdeveloped areas and their residents.

For some of us with the advantage of a prosperous free market system, we have been somewhat immune to the spectacle of the criminal poisoning of disadvantage populations, which happens routinely in Africa and Asia by the purveyors of this insidious transgression.

In 2010, the widely accepted World Health Organization’s estimate is that pharmaceutical counterfeits are a $75 billion industry with an annual growth percentage of 12-16%. The World Customs Institute estimates that food counterfeiting is a $49 billion annual enterprise.

According to the study of Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce counterfeit goods make up conservatively 5 - 7% of World Trade which the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition calculates would make the current global counterfeit economy the world’s biggest single business.

We now find ourselves in a perfect storm that will expand counterfeit criminal activity well beyond our wildest estimates and make it far more deadly in scope and size. The primary elements feeding this calamity include:

· a worldwide economy in a downward spiral
· ineffective regulations and laws on the crime of counterfeiting
· spotty or careless enforcement of existing laws on counterfeiting
· disjointed supply chains that cross multiple governmental boundaries and jurisdictions
· huge taxes on critical commercial markets like healthcare that are squeezing both the business and the onsumer to look for cheaper goods
· a collective lack of knowledge and leadership by governments around the globe to protect their constituents
· industries that choose to ignore the threat to their businesses instead of protecting their brand and customers
· a collective lack awareness of the deadly nature of the threat of counterfeits by consumers worldwide, most consider this a harmless act

Until now, this criminal activity, although grand in its size has really been driven by single individuals or disparate organized entities that realize how lucrative and safe this nefarious criminal activity has become. Criminals understand that counterfeiting is the perfect crime:

· there are few ways to get caught
· if they do get caught their activity carries almost no significant ramifications
· most often their crime will not be discovered for some time giving them plenty of time to cover their tracks and escape
· they have a global marketplace where they can carry out transactions anonymously in cyberspace
· the profit margin derived from counterfeiting transcends what most businesses make in a legitimate activity

Even as this perfect crime expands to educated and developed nations, we now seem at the precipice of something far more dangerous and deadly as this menace seems likely to evolve into something much larger in size and scope and far more insidious as a whole.

Many experts now fear the inevitable, when terror organizations, who are not driven by greed but rather destruction, realize the relative ease and deadly effectiveness that a purposeful counterfeiting event could trigger in a region or nation. Be it in a consumer good, food stuff, electronics or medication, one single, simple adulteration could literally harm millions with relative impunity.

Adapt or Perish, the time is now for governments, industry and consumers to understand the need for solutions to protect themselves from the various nefarious sources that threaten their health and wellbeing.

Today there are many technologies and services available that can offer protection to industry and consumers from those who would seek to profit or cause destruction. Leaders in governments and industry around the globe need to act now to protect entire populations.

Although no one solution, to date provides a single, "iron clad" solution to this scourge, when appropriately layered, these existing solutions can and do create effective and efficient security to protect supply chains and consumers from fraudulent, adulterated and counterfeit products.

To learn more about, anti-counterfeiting solutions, visit:

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