Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Economist: The Spread of Counterfeiting, Knock-offs Catch On

Fake goods are proliferating, to the dismay of companies and governments, reports The Economist in a story that appeared in their March 4, 2010 edition.

The piece details the overall impact of counterfeiting in all marketplaces, its spread and impact to economies and consumers.

The impact of counterfeits hits everywhere, according to the article, “fake Porches and Ferraris zoom along the streets of China. A German bank has discovered an ersatz gold ingot made of tungsten in its reserves…NASA, America’s space agency, has even bought suspect materials.”

This story encapsulates how prevalent this criminal activity has become and that it not just a victimless crime of a bunch of knock-off purses or watches sold on the street corner.

Highlights of the article include:

· The OECD estimates that the international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods was worth around $250 billion in 2007. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), a lobby group, says the true figure is actually closer to $600 billion, because the OECD’s estimate does not include online piracy or counterfeits that are sold in the same country as they are made. Counterfeit goods make up 5-7% of world trade, according to the IACC.

· Several factors have contributed to the growth of counterfeiting in recent years. The shift of much of the world’s manufacturing to countries with poor protection of intellectual property has provided both the technology and the opportunity to make knock-offs. The internet in general and e-commerce sites like eBay in particular, have made it easier to distribute counterfeit goods. MarkMonitor, a firm that helps companies defend brands online, estimates that sales of counterfeit goods via the internet will reach $135 billion this year.

· The recession in the rich world may also have given a boost to counterfeit goods. Frederick Mostert of the Authentics Foundation, an anti-counterfeiting group, has noticed a “spike” in knock-offs this recession, as consumers short of money trade down from the real thing. Cost-cutting measures may also have made firms’ supply chains more vulnerable to counterfeit parts.

· Governments are also boosting their efforts to crack down on counterfeiting, which deprive them of tax revenue in addition to harming legitimate businesses. Counterfeiting and piracy cost G20 economies €62 billion ($85 billion) a year in lost taxes and higher spending on unemployment benefits, according to a study by Frontier Economics, a consultancy. For every dollar invested in the fight against counterfeiting in America, the government receives $5 in extra tax revenue, estimates the US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby.

· In 2008 the value of fake goods seized at America’s borders increased by nearly 40% over the year before. It subsequently fell by 4% last year—far less than the 25% decline in imports overall. In Europe in 2008 customs services confiscated more than double the previous year’s haul of counterfeit goods.

· MarkMonitor raised the price of its online brand-protection service by 18% last year because demand was so high. America’s biggest firms spend $2m-4m a year to combat counterfeiting on average—a figure that is growing along with internet shopping.

· In China, where 80% of the world’s fake goods are thought to be produced, officials are loth to crack down on a thriving local business.

Secure Pharma Chain Blog continues to highlight medication counterfeiting as one of the most dangerous forms of this criminal activity and encourages all within the pharmaceutical supply chains to deploy a variety of solutions and technologies in their efforts to protect the healthcare of the consumer.

To learn more about anti-counterfeiting technologies, visit: http://www.xstreamsystems.net/.

To read this excellent article which appeared in the March 4th edition of The Economist, visit: http://www.economist.com/.

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