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Global Trade in Counterfeit Goods Worth Nearly Half a Trillion Dollars

According to a 2016 report published by OECD, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion dollars annually with U.S. (20%), Italian (15%), French (12%)and Swiss (12%) brands being the hardest hit. This is equivalent to about 2.5% of all global imports and, according to Antonio Campinos, president of the EU Intellectual Property Office, equal to the combined GDP of the Czech Republic and Ireland. Most of the proceeds are going to organized crime according to a new report by the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office. The report further states that up to 5% of all goods imported into the European Union are fakes. The organization calculated the estimate based on half a million customs seizures around the world over 2011-2013. The findings contradict the image that counterfeits only hurt big companies and luxury goods manufacturers. The counterfeiters take advantage of our trust in trademarks and brand names to undermine economies and endanger our lives.

Fake products crop up in everything from handbags and perfumes to machine parts and chemicals. Footwear is the most copied item though trademarks are infringed even for food products, fruit, wine, and even olive oils. While China is the largest source of fake goods, even well know Chinese brands are not immune to being knocked off.

The report further goes on to say that the trafficking in fake goods has changed. Postal parcels are now the top method of shipping fake goods, amounting to 62% of seizures from 2011-2013. This is a direct reflection of the importance of online commerce in international trade. Major shipping hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore are important transit points, but also countries with poor law enforcement and widespread organized crime like Afghanistan and Syria are also used. The counterfeits can quickly change channels to stay abreast of the law.

Some of the causes for the increase are that counterfeiters are very nimble and exploit any gap or weakness that works to their advantage. Demand continues to grow for counterfeit products. Most people don’t know they are buying or know how to identify counterfeit goods. The Internet has made the job of the counterfeiter very easy. Also, the damage done by counterfeits on jobs, companies, brand image and even health & safety is still not understood by many global consumers.

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