The market for counterfeit products is steadily rising. But buying a fake bag, chair or watch is not only bad for the original brands. It is also harmful to your health and local workplaces.
In Sprout, we often see more and more fake seed pencils being sold with our logo, name and even our product descriptions. This is not only very annoying; it is also illegal.
Let me give you an example. If you search for “Sprout pencil” on Amazon, which is both a global trade mark and a patented product, you get 60 different hits. Only one of them is our pencils. The rest are copies.
If you search for seed pencil, which “only” violates our patent, the number is above 800.
In 2016, Apple received a lot of complaints due to faulty chargers that were both overheating and igniting. They were all purchased on Amazon.com as original chargers. However, Apple bought some for testing only to discover that 90 percent were copies.
Half a trillion dollars a year
OECD estimates that imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5% of global imports. It is a steadily rising problem. Previously, the major kind of fake goods were shoes, bags and clothes, but today everything is being copied, from medication to toys and Sprout pencils.
Just think of these examples:
- Medication with no effect or even worse, with harmful or fatal effect
- Spare parts for car or aircrafts that do not work
- Hospital equipment that fails
- Breast milk substitutes that contain no nutrition
- Toys with so much chemistry making them unsuitable for humans
You might think that this has got nothing to do with the fake and completely harmless Gucci bag you just bought on eBay. Not true. According to OECD and Interpol, profits from fake goods are often used to fund criminal activities, money laundering and even terror.
Is it satisfying to own something that might look like the original, but properly of poorer quality? And yes, most people know, you are carrying around a fake.
The same goes for companies, that either inadvertently or deliberately buy copies of goods. It is often due to ignorance - so please check the originality of your purchases an extra time. It can be costly to buy copies.
Act fast if you have made a mistake
I have a recent example of a hotel in a global chain of hotels that bought a large amount of Sprout Pencils from one of their many regular suppliers. They proudly posted the pencils on their website believing they were the original product. They were copies.
We contacted the hotel, and to their credit they acted quickly. They collected all the copies and destroyed them, and are not working with the supplier anymore. Furthermore, they put in an order for the real Sprout Pencils and continued the campaign as they had planned.
Know your rights
If you are the owner of a trademark or patent and it is being violated, it can seem unmanageable to constantly be aware and maybe even end up in court. You could be up against counterfeiters with bigger pockets than you, but acting passively will cost you business.
Counterfeiters in the United States are forced to publish their sales numbers and can in the best cases be forced to pay the WHOLE gross profit by selling copies of your products.
In the EU, the rules depend on countries. The rules are especially tough in Italy and France, undoubtedly because the biggest fashion brands have been violated again and again. Italy takes responsibility in fighting organized crime by fining tourists, who buy counterfeited products and cities advertise heavily against supporting the industry.
In response to the rising number of websites selling counterfeited products, The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and Nominet, the UK’s central registry to all UK domains, took down more than 3.000 websites just in 2015.
Consumer, take responsibility!
As a consumer, you have a big responsibility, so follow the mantra: Is it too good (cheap) to be true, it properly is.
Just buy the real deal. And if you can´t afford it; buy other and more affordable brands. By not buying counterfeited products of mediocre quality, you avoid supporting the loss of jobs and helping potentially illegal organizations. Think twice before you buy that Gucci bag on the beach or on the internet.
And doubt the origin if your company suddenly can save 60 pct. on an order of Nike clothes for the local sports club.