Life-threatening product fakes are on the rise

  • 9 January 2002

The multi-billion dollar global counterfeiting industry grows apace - sullying reputations of legitimate manufacturers and too often putting the health and even the lives of consumers at risk.

These are the conclusions of the ICC Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau’s 2002 International Anti-Counterfeiting Directory, a one-stop information resource to aid companies in the worldwide fight against fakes.

CIB Director Peter Lowe says: “The range of products affected is virtually endless – designer clothing, music, software, food, watches, liquor, aircraft spare parts, pharmaceuticals, including the male potency drug Viagra.”

“When a company’s products have health and safety implications, suppressing counterfeiting and devising effective product protection are not an option but a necessity,” Mr Lowe adds. “One of the most worrying feature of present trends is the high incidence of fake medicines that can kill.”

The report lists recent cases: a face cream sold in Thailand containing a prohibited chemical with severe side effects, counterfeits of an AIDS treatment circulating in the United States, cancer-causing counterfeit rice in China, and 60 deaths in Estonia from drinking illicit vodka.

Mr Lowe says: “It is notoriously difficult to form an estimate of the sums involved in product counterfeiting, but the figures certainly run to tens of billions of dollars. For many years, specialists in the fight against counterfeiting have quoted a figure of between 5% and 7% of world trade, but this is impossible to verify.

“Certain industries suffer well above average levels of intellectual property theft, in particular the music and computer software industries.”

He cites evidence of the growing involvement of organized crime and links between counterfeiting and the bankrolling of terrorism to back a call for more vigorous government action against “this damaging brand of economic crime.”

The Counterfeiting Intell igence Bureau is part of ICC Commercial Crime Services, the business community’s own crime prevention and detection arm. CIB assists companies in preventing counterfeiting of their products. It carries out investigations and provides intelligence.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Directory lists law firms specializing in intellectualproperty and anti-counterfeiting work, anti-counterfeiting technology manufacturers, and specialist investigators. A chapter is devoted to advising companies on how to devise effective anti-counterfeiting strategies.