2 February 2012 by Dickon Ross
The International Chamber of Commerce estimates the worldwide economic and social cost of counterfeit and pirated products is as high as $775bn every year. This includes lost tax revenue and higher government spending on policing and healthcare. The top consumer brands claim together they lose out on sales worth many billions of dollars to counterfeit goods each year.
But do the top brands really lose out as much as they claim? Hong Kong's street markets are awash with 'designer' watches for a dollar or two - well, the top of the range 'Rolex' bling may cost you $10. But no one in their right mind believes them to be the real thing; it's just a bit of fun. Sometimes, the worse the fake, the better the joke.
So do we really believe that everyone who picks up a 'genuine' pair of D&Gs, M&S or soon Primark from their local market really thinks they have the bargain of the century? They may know it's a fake and not care, as long as it fits. For other, less famous brands, they may not even realise it's supposed to be a designer item.
Perhaps on one level it doesn't really matter. But there is a much darker side to fakes. Fake clothing is linked to organised crime, and dodgy DVDs to people trafficking. Fake perfumes can be based on - stop reading now if you think you might be wearing some - horse urine, according to David McKelvey, from counterfeit and piracy experts TM Eye. He adds there are high levels of mercury in fake cosmetics, lead and nickel in fake jewellery, even lice in makeup brushes. Fakes are a particular problem in online retailing, when you can't see what you are buying.
However, an EU-funded report from 2010 questioned many of the scare-stories about fakes. Co-author Professor David Wall said the real cost to industry could be one-fifth the figures often put forward. "There is also evidence that it actually helps the brands, by quickening the fashion cycle and raising brand awareness," he said. Chris Edwards looks into the more subtle arguments as to why fakes are not always a bad thing and can help to drive industry.
It's vital that governments and industry take on the fraudsters and fakers, through law enforcement agencies obviously but also armed with the latest detection techniques and anti-fake technologies to make it harder if not impossible to fake products in the first place. In our A-Z we look at the latest technologies, whether they are built into the latest £50 note or etched into glass bottles. We look at the the use of techniques such as X-rays to detect fakes and the limitations of some measures, such as RFID.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Edited: 03 July 2012 at 12:26 PM by Editor's letter Moderator
Posted By: Dickon Ross @ 02 February 2012 11:46 AM Introducing an issue of E&T
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