June 6 was recognized as World Anti-Counterfeiting Day. The tradition was launched in 1998 by the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Network (GACN) to draw attention to the crisis, the cost and the dangers of fake goods. Spreading awareness on the issue of counterfeiting becomes more relevant – and necessary – with each passing year.
According to Harvard Business Review, the estimated trade in counterfeit products is around $4.5 trillion as of May 2019. Fake luxury goods comprise 60-70% of that amount, with pharmaceuticals close behind.
Beyond the simple fact of brands and their customers being ripped off, this reckless trend is endangering millions with regard to suspicious prescription medication and other consumables. An estimated 1 in 10 medical products sold in low- and middle-income countries is substandard or falsified, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These can lead to serious infections, or worse, for countless unsuspecting buyers. Africa is a prime example, where more than 120,000 people die every year from fake antimalarial drugs.
With so many issues competing for news coverage and people’s time, it’s easy for this topic to be overlooked or ignored. But considering that counterfeiters are harming innocent people each day, and making it difficult for honest manufacturers to stay in business, a growing conglomerate of companies and influencers are hard at work on finding solutions.
Like with any widespread problem, it will take more than one day a year to push things in the right direction. Fortunately, strides are being made and the movement to reduce counterfeiting is gathering steam.
On June 4, two days before World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, representatives from Amazon, eBay and other large companies met with lawmakers in Washington D.C. to discuss ways to prevent counterfeits entering the country. This comes after an executive memo in April that addressed the topic, requesting that new policies and enforcement actions be put in place by the end of this year that are designed to prevent trafficking of these goods.
Major online marketplaces like the two mentioned above are havens for scammers, making a quick buck by copying other products or posing as other companies entirely. In many cases, upstanding retailers don’t even know they are selling counterfeit goods; scammers will invest in quality packaging but place poor-quality products inside. The prevalence and accessibility of online platforms has helped escalate the many forms of counterfeiting in the digital age.
As with cybercrime and data security, evolving technology creates new problems and threats at the same rate (or faster) than it solves other problems. Businesses and families alike are inheriting stresses and responsibilities just to survive in these times, let alone succeed. It can be overwhelming to say the least.
But with a group effort to stay educated and proactive, we can fight toward a safer future.
Kilburn and Strode, an IP law firm based in London and a member of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), published a list of measures that businesses should take to prevent and deal with being counterfeited. The list was published in conjunction with World Anti-Counterfeiting Day. If you sell goods of any kind, from snack foods to electronics, we encourage you to read over these suggestions and bolster your brand’s anti-counterfeiting initiatives in the coming months. If you are involved with pharmaceuticals in any way, a watchful eye is especially critical.
When you are shopping around for yourself, your family or your business, please also take the time to verify the legitimacy of your vendors, whether you are buying direct or through a third-party marketplace. And if you find suspicious listings — or receive what appear to be counterfeit goods at any point — please take a moment to report it for investigation. Visit STOPfakes.gov for more information on reporting these online vendors.