Counterfeits – A true threat to public health and safety

When you think of the word “counterfeits” what comes to mind? Stacks of phony dollar bills? World-class art thieves? Fake designer hand bags? What about the prescriptions you and your loved ones take to maintain your health? Or the brake pads you hope will work the next time you get in your car?

The counterfeit goods we usually think of first, fashion items, are actually the least harmful counterfeit items making their way into American homes. While it is true that handbags and wallets, watches and jewelry, consumer electronics, apparel and fashion accessories were the most commonly counterfeited items in 2014, it is other items that pose the biggest threat to the safety and health of the public. The Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released a report titled Measuring the Magnitude of Global Counterfeiting that details the extent of the harm counterfeit goods create. According to the study, the total economic cost of deaths in G20 countries as a result of counterfeits goods is estimated to be around $18 billion USD, with an additional $125 million lost each year due to injuries from counterfeit goods. A common example of these threats to public safety are counterfeit industrial parts that find their way airplanes, cars and other vehicles of transportation which have been linked to many accidents and malfunctions.

While the physical human toll of counterfeit goods is overwhelming, the economic implications are also very problematic. According to the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy initiative, an estimated 2.5 million jobs are lost each year in G20 countries as a result of counterfeiting 2.5 million!

So where are these goods coming from? The “Magnitude” report released by the GIPC suggests an estimated 70% of the physical counterfeit, trade-related goods come from China alone. Those goods are equal to $285 billion USD or 1.5% of China’s GDP. Together, China and Hong Kong account for 86% of global physical counterfeiting. While these two nations produce this exorbitant share of the counterfeit goods, many nations are involved in the trafficking and profiting of these goods.

Strong IP protections and secure international trade pacts are the best way to fight the impact and spread of counterfeit goods. As America looks to connect with our neighbors in the Pacific on trade through the Trans Pacific Partnership, let’s keep the threat of counterfeit goods in mind throughout negotiations at home and abroad.

Ainsley Shea