The implications of purchasing counterfeit products are far reaching, feeding into a much broader and more damaging spectrum of criminal activity that is of little comprehension to the average consumer.
The thousands of counterfeit items that litter the black market not only undermine intellectual property rights, impacting upon the creativity of those who created them, but the practise feeds into creating an unethical labour market that can be used to subsidise organised crime.
Operation ‘In Our Sites (IOS) VIII’, finalised in November 2017, resulted in the disruption of more than 20,520 domain names illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online, with items available for sale ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics; another example, Operation Gazel, led to 65 people being arrested and charged in Spain for crimes which include animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation, after horse meat unfit for human consumption was found in European meat.
A recent report entitled ‘Illicit Trade: Fuelling Terror Financing and Organised Crime’ published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes the financial damage that is likely to result from a climate whereupon consumers feel liberated to purchase “designer” sunglasses and “brand name” handbags, with the total economic and social costs as a result of counterfeiting and piracy worldwide estimated to reach USD1.54-USD1.87 trillion by 2022 – a significant jump from 2013 when it stood at USD737 to USD898billion.
Global threats will most likely continue to push demand for authentication and brand protection devices, including holograms and track and trace technologies to deliver overt and covert protection. Banknote, ID and automotive applications herald new opportunities. Yet in order to combat the root cause it is important that authorities address the problem, embracing international communication, open-mindedness and collaboration. Added value authentication solutions advocated in ISO 12931 enable examiners to verify the authenticity of a product, differentiating it from that which is illegitimate.