Mention counterfeiting and what many ordinary citizens immediately think about is counterfeit currency. Indeed, counterfeiting of money is one of the oldest crimes in history. Counterfeiting currency in the United States was a serious problem during the 19th century when banks issued their own U.S. currency, with approximately 1,600 state banks designing and printing their own notes. The adoption of a national currency in 1863 was believed to be the solution for the problem, but counterfeiting was so widespread that on July 5, 1865, the United States Secret Service was established to suppress counterfeiting. Although substantially curtailed, counterfeiting of money still remains a threat to the U.S. economy.
Mention counterfeiting and what a person who specializes in intellectual property thinks about is the growing amount of counterfeit goods that flood the market costing hundreds of billions of dollars of damage to the economy.
Counterfeiting is an enormous problem for businesses all over the world. Counterfeiters rip off name brand products, making cheap knock-offs, easily costing brand owners billions of dollars each year. For example, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2013 the total value of counterfeit and pirated goods was $461 billion. Furthermore, making matters more difficult for law enforcement is the growing reality that 63% of seized fakes were shipped by postal and express services. This makes the fight against counterfeits a never-ending battle for brands.
If 63% of seized counterfeit goods are discovered through routine and legal shipping channels what is the true magnitude of the problem? Despite best efforts does anyone believe U.S. Officials catch 100% of counterfeits entering the United States?
Counterfeiting is a far bigger story than loses to big companies and the associated loss of downstream economic activity. Those that support counterfeiters by buying knock-off goods are also increasingly supporting organized crime, including drug cartels and terrorist organizations, who are increasingly looking to the generous profits that can be earned and exceptionally low jail terms even if they do get caught.