Counterfeit Goods Are a $461 Billion Industry

Find out why the illegal practice is so dangerous — and where it happens most often.

Counterfeit Goods Are a $461 Billion Industry Photo (cc) by priceminister

Imported counterfeit goods are worth $461 billion — nearly a half-trillion dollars — a new report shows.

That’s equivalent to Austria’s gross domestic product — the value of all finished goods and services produced in a country. It’s also equivalent to the GDPs of Ireland and the Czech Republic combined.

That’s among the findings of “Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact,” a report released this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.

The OECD is made up of 34 nations and seeks to improve economic and social well-being worldwide.

The report’s findings are based on an analysis of worldwide customs seizure data for 2011 through 2013, which covers imports by air, ship, road and railway. It covers all physical counterfeit goods but excludes online piracy.

The report shows that a wide variety of products are counterfeited, including:

  • Luxury consumer goods like watches, perfumes and leather goods
  • Business-to-business products like machines, chemicals and spare parts
  • Common consumer products like toys, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and foods

OECD Deputy Secretary-General Doug Frantz says in a news release:

“The findings of this new report contradict the image that counterfeiters only hurt big companies and luxury goods manufacturers. They take advantage of our trust in trademarks and brand names to undermine economies and endanger lives.”

Examples of how fakes or knockoffs, as they’re commonly known, can endanger lives include auto parts that fail and prescription drugs that make patients ill.

Other findings of the report include:

  • Imported counterfeit goods account for 2.5 percent of all global imports.
  • Footwear is the most copied item.
  • Postal parcels are the most common method of shipping counterfeit goods, accounting for 62 percent of seizures from 2011-2013.
  • The countries whose companies’ intellectual property rights were infringed on the most from 2011-2013 were:
    • United States, where 20 percent of brands or patents were affected
    • Italy, 15 percent
    • France, 12 percent
    • Switzerland, 12 percent
    • Japan, 8 percent
    • Germany, 8 percent

If you worry about falling for fakes, be sure to check out “8 Ways to Avoid Purchasing Counterfeit Products.”

What’s your take on the counterfeit goods industry? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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