Globally, counterfeit and pirated goods represents almost $500 billion annually each year according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is the equivalent of the GDP of Austria, or the combined GDP of Ireland and the Czech Republic. To compare, the market for footwear globally was just under $209 billion in 2014. The counterfeit industry is large and rapidly growing.
Counterfeiters often have ties to organized crime including the Mafia, the Camorra, the Triads, and the Yakuza. They utilize counterfeiters for money laundering and to fund other illicit activities like drug and human trafficking. Counterfeiting also gives criminals the opportunity to diversify their crime and provides a constant revenue stream. Should one aspect of organized crime’s business be shut down, counterfeiting often remains to fund the organization as it is seen as a “lesser offense.” According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Just as the licit market for online sales of goods is increasing, so is the opportunity for the online sale of counterfeit goods by organized crime groups.”
Counterfeit networks help infringers distribute product across all vectors of the Internet. In order to identify potential networks, be sure to listen to reports from consumers. Also, listen to complaints from your affiliate chain of lower priced or low quality product. If your brand is experiencing large scale issues, it is likely a network is involved.
Once you believe you have found a potential network, investigate everything! Scope out seller names, websites, and use open source intelligence to make connections. You can also hire a private investigator or purchase an investigative report to make the most efficient use of your time. Utilize that actionable intelligence to make informed enforcement decisions. Lastly, be sure to tell your success stories internally to gather buy in from other departments!
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