Thursday, June 13, 2013

Types of Counterfeit Consumer Goods

General description

Growth in seizures of counterfeit goods by U.S.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), counterfeit products encompass all products made to closely imitate the appearance of the product of another as to mislead consumers. Those can include the unauthorised production and distribution of products that are protected by intellectual property rights, such as copyright, trade marks and trade names. In many cases, different types of those infringements can often overlap: Music piracy mostly infringes copyright as well as trade marks; fake toys infringe design protection. The term "counterfeiting" therefore addresses piracy and related issues, such as copying of packaging, labelling, or any other significant features of the goods.

Among the leading industries that have been seriously affected by counterfeiting are software, music recordings, motion pictures, luxury goods and fashion clothes, sportswear, perfumes, toys, aircraft components, spare parts and car accessories, and pharmaceuticals.

Apparel and accessories

A counterfeit Patek Philippe watch.
The hand on the left sub-dial has fallen off.
Counterfeit clothes, shoes and handbags from designer brands are made in varying quality; sometimes the intent is only to fool the gullible buyer who only looks at the label and doesn't know what the real thing looks like, while others put some serious effort into mimicking fashion details. Others realize that most consumers do not care if the goods they buy are counterfeit and just wish to purchase inexpensive products. The popularity of designer jeans in 1978, spurred a flood of knockoffs. Factories that manufacture counterfeit designer brand garments and watches are usually located in developing countries. International tourists visiting Beijing, China, will find a wide selection of counterfeit designer brand garments at the infamous Silk Street. Expensive watches are vulnerable to counterfeiting; it is a common cliché that any visitor to New York City will be approached on a street corner by a vendor with a dozen such counterfeit watches inside his coat, offered at bargain prices. In Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, extremely authentic looking, ranging from very poor quality watch fakes with self-winding mechanisms and fully working movements can sell for as little as US $20 to good quality ones that sell for 1 $100 and over. Also some fakes' movements and materials are of remarkably passable quality — albeit inconsistently so — and may look good and work well for some years, a possible consequence of increasing competition within the counterfeiting community. Thailand has opened a Museum of Counterfeit Goods displaying over 3,500 different items, in 14 different categories, which violate trade marks, patents, or copyrights.


In China, counterfeit high-end wines are a growing beverage industry segment, where fakes are sold to Chinese consumers. Knock-off artists refill empty bottles from famous chateaux with inferior vintages. According to one source, "Upwardly mobile Chinese, eager to display their wealth and sophistication, have since developed a taste for imported wine along with other foreign luxuries." In China, wine consumption more than doubled since 2005, making China the seventh-largest market in the world. The methods used to dupe innocent consumers includes photocopying labels, creating different and phony chateaux names on the capsule and the label. Sometimes authentic bottles are used but another wine is added by using a syringe. The problem is so widespread in China, the U.S. and Europe, that auction house Christie's has begun smashing empty bottles with a hammer to prevent them from entering the black market. During one sale in 2008, a French vintner was "shocked to discover that '106 bottles out of 107' were fakes." According to one source, counterfeit French wines sold locally and abroad "could take on a much more serious amplitude in Asia because the market is developing at a dazzling speed." Vintners are either unable or hesitant to fight such counterfeiters: "There are no funds. Each lawsuit costs 500,000 euros," states one French vintner. In addition, some vintners, like product and food manufacturers, prefer to avoid any publicity regarding fakes to avoid injuring their brand names. Counterfeit wine is also found in the West; it is primarily a problem for collectors of rare wine, especially of pre-WWII French wines, as producers kept spotty records at the time. Famous examples of counterfeiting include the case of Hardy Rodenstock, who was involved with the so-called "Jefferson bottles," and Rudy Kurniawan, who was indicted in March 2012 for attempting to sell faked bottles of La Tâche from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Clos St. Denis from Domaine Ponsot. In both cases, the victims of the fraud were high-end wine collectors, including Bill Koch, who sued both Rodenstock and Kurniawan over fake wines sold both at auction and privately.


Compact Discs, videotapes and DVDs, computer software and other media that are easily copied can be counterfeited and sold through vendors at street markets, night markets, mail order, and numerous Internet sources, including open auction sites like eBay. In some cases where the counterfeit media has packaging good enough to be mistaken for the genuine product, it is sometimes sold as such. Music enthusiasts may use the term "bootleg recording" to differentiate otherwise unavailable recordings from counterfeited copies of commercially released material. In August 2011, it was reported that at least 22 fake Apple computer stores were operating in parts of China, despite others having been shut down in the past by authorities at other locations. The following month, also in China, it was discovered that the popular mobile game Angry Birds, had been re-created into a theme park without permission from its Finnish copyright or trade mark owners.


Bulk bag of counterfeit Viagra
According to the U.S. FBI, the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals accounts for an estimated $600 billion in global trade, and may be the "crime of the 21st century." They add that it "poses significant adverse health and economic consequences for individuals and corporations alike." The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 30% of pharmaceuticals in developing countries are fake, stating that "Anyone, anywhere in the world, can come across medicines seemingly packaged in the right way but which do not contain the correct ingredients and, in the worst-case scenario, may be filled with highly toxic substances.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes counterfeit drugs as those sold under a product name without proper authorization:
"Counterfeiting can apply to both brand name and generic products, where the identity of the source is mislabeled in a way that suggests that it is the authentic approved product. Counterfeit products may include products without the active ingredient, with an insufficient or excessive quantity of the active ingredient, with the wrong active ingredient, or with fake packaging."
Experts estimate that counterfeit medications kill at least 100,000 people a year, mostly in undeveloped countries. According to the The Economist, between 15%-30% of antibiotic drugs in Africa and South-East Asia are fake. The UN estimates that roughly half of the antimalarial drugs sold in Africa—worth some $438m a year—are counterfeits. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has found fake versions of at least 20 of its products, such as Viagra and Lipitor, in the legitimate supply chains of at least 44 countries. Pfizer also found that nearly 20% of Europeans had obtained medicines through illicit channels, amounting to $12.8 billion in sales. Other experts estimate the global market for fake medications could be worth between $75 billion and $200 billion a year, as of 2010. Other counterfeit prescription drugs that have been found in the "legitimate" supply chain are Plavix, used to treat blood clots, Zyprexa for schizophrenia, Casodex, used to treat prostate cancer, Tamiflu, used to treat influenza, including Swine flu, and Aricept, used to treat Alzheimers. The EU reported that as of 2005 India was by far the biggest supplier of fake drugs," accounting for 75 percent of the global cases of counterfeit medicine. Another 7% came from Egypt and 6% from China. Those involved in their production and distribution include medical professionals such as pharmacists and physicians, organized crime syndicates, rogue pharmaceutical companies, corrupt local and national officials and terrorist organizations. The Philippine Department of Health has found that 10% of drugs sold in their country were counterfeit. In 2005, counterfeit pharmaceuticals affected less than one percent in developed countries, such as the U.S. , Australia, and countries within the EU, with the problem growing due to increased global sourcing and manufacturing. A study by the OECD concluded that "a worrisome trend is that counterfeits are increasingly being detected as having entered the supply chain of some of the most regulated jurisdictions," noting an example of one source reporting a 27% increase in number of incident over one year." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2006 developing countries had a counterfeit prevalence of 10-30 per cent or higher.


Food fraud, "the intentional adulteration of food with cheaper ingredients for economic gain," is a well-documented crime that has existed in the U.S. and Europe for many decades. It has only received most attention in recent years as the fear of bioterrorism has increased. Numerous cases of intentional food fraud have been discovered over the last few years:
  • In 2008, U.S. consumers were "panicked" and a "media firestorm" ensued when Chinese milk was discovered to have been adulterated with the chemical melamine, to make milk appear to have a higher protein content. It caused 900 infants to be hospitalized with six deaths.
  • In 2007, the University of North Carolina found that 77 percent of fish labeled as red snapper was actually tilapia, a common and less flavorful species. The Chicago Sun-Times tested fish at 17 sushi restaurants found that fish being sold as red snapper actually was mostly tilapia. Other inspections uncovered catfish being sold as grouper, which normally sells for nearly twice as much as catfish. Fish is the most frequently faked food Americans buy, which includes "...selling a cheaper fish, such as pen-raised Atlantic salmon, as wild Alaska salmon." In one test, Consumer Reports found that less than half of supposedly "wild-caught" salmon sold in 2005-2006 were actually wild, and the rest were farmed.
  • French cognac was discovered to have been adulterated with brandy, and their honey was mixed with cheaper sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup.
  • In 2008, U.S. food safety officers seized more than 10,000 cases of counterfeit extra virgin olive oil, worth more than $700,000, from warehouses in New York and New Jersey. Olive oil is considered one of the most frequently counterfeited food products, according to the FDA, with one study finding that a lot of products labeled as "extra-virgin olive oil" actually contained up to 90% soybean oil.
However, in the U.S., where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the primary regulatory body for food safety and enforcement, they admit that the "sheer magnitude of the potential crime" makes prevention difficult, along with the fact that food safety is not treated as a high priority. They note that with more than 300 ports of entry through which 13 percent of America's food supply passes, the FDA is only able to inspect about 2 percent of that food. "
Food counterfeiting and piracy is a serious threat in Europe. In 2005, EU customs seized more than 75 million counterfeited and pirated goods, including foods, medicines and other goods, party due to internet sales. More than 5 million counterfeit food-related items, including drinks and alcohol products were seized. According to the EU's taxation and customs commissioner, "A secret wave of dangerous fakes is threatening the people in Europe."


British undercover detectives have found that counterfeited cigarettes contain frequently human excrement, asbestos, mold and dead flies.


There has been at least one instance of an entire fake parallel manufacturing / distributing / retail system. NEC, a large Japanese electronics company, was apparently copied and sold throughout South East Asia. A persistent customer, dissatisfied by the fake NEC's warranty service, complained to the real NEC headquarters in Japan, who thereupon found that they were manufacturing and distributing products they had never heard of.

Military items

According to a U.S. Senate committee report in 2012 and reported by ABC News, "counterfeit electronic parts from China are 'flooding' into critical U.S. military systems, including special operations helicopters and surveillance planes, and are putting the nation's troops at risk." The report notes that Chinese companies take discarded electronic parts from other nations, removes any identifying marks, washes and refurbishes them, and then resells them as brand-new – "a practice that poses a significant risk to the performance of U.S. military systems.


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