To counterfeit means to imitate something. Counterfeit products are fakes or unauthorised replicas of the real product. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product. The word counterfeit frequently describes both the forgeries of currency and documents, as well as the imitations of:
- handbags and shoes,
- aviation and automobile parts,
- electronics (both parts and finished products),
- works of art, toys, movies and any other type of products such as those.
Counterfeit products tend to have fake company logos and brands. In the case of goods, it results in patent infringement and/or trademark infringement. Counterfeit consumer products have a reputation for being lower quality (sometimes not working at all) and may even include toxic elements. Counterfeit consumer goods are goods, often of inferior quality, made or sold under another’s brand name without the brand owner’s authorization. Sellers of such goods may infringe on either the trade mark, patent or copyright of the brand owner by passing off its goods as made by the brand owner.
The spread of counterfeit goods is worldwide, and in 2008 a study by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated the global value of all counterfeit goods reached $650 billion every year. The same study projected that in 2015 the upper bound of the global value of counterfeit and pirated goods could be $1.77 trillion. Counterfeit products make up 5 to 7% of world trade and have cost an estimated 2.5 million jobs worldwide, with 750,000 jobs lost in the U.S. alone.
By the data of economical researches made by private agency Else in 2016 the Top origin economies of fakes were:
- China – around 63%
- Hong Kong – around 21%
- Turkey – 3%
- Singapore – 1,9%
- Thailand – 1,6%
In China counterfeiting is so deeply rooted that crackdowns on shops selling counterfeit cause public protests during which the authorities are derided as “bourgeois puppets of foreigners.” Tendency to counterfeiting also is provided by India, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt, and the rest of the world but in very little percentages.
The Top Lost sales in numbers were:
- Italy – around 5 billion euro
- Spain – around 4,5 billion euro
- UK – 4 billion euro
- Germany – 3,9 billion euro
- France – 3,8 billion euro
Counterfeit clothes, shoes, jewelry and handbags from designer brands are made in varying quality; sometimes the intent is only to fool the buyer who only looks at the label and does not 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.
The term knockoff is often used interchangeably with “counterfeit,” although their legal meanings are not identical. A “knockoff” is a colloquial term which describes products that copy or imitate the physical appearance of other products, but which do not copy the brand name or logo of a trademark. They may, or may not, be illegal under trademark laws.
Such products are considered illegal when they are intended to confuse consumers. And someone can be a counterfeiter even if he doesn’t make the products, but knowingly sells them to others.
“You may imitate, but never counterfeit” – Honorè de Balzac
Expensive watches are vulnerable to counterfeiting. In Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, authentic looking but 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 $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 4,000 different items, in 14 different categories, which violate trademarks, patents, or copyrights.
Oldest museum of this kind also exists in Paris, it is Musée de la Contrefaçon.