$1.8 trillion dollar is the fake goods market world over. You might be wondering where all that money goes, as it surely is not in the legal economy. Most of this money ends up funding illegal activities, terrorism, organized crime etc. So when you buy that fake handbag or printer ink knowingly or not, you may have basically given a contract to harm yourself and others.
Most people tend to think that counterfeiting is a victimless crime and it probably only affects the revenues of the brand whose label is copied. They think that it’s a socialist way of fighting against the big corporates who are making huge margins.
As Alastair Gray a counterfeit investigator and a brand protection manager at Tommy Hilfiger mentioned in his Ted Talk — “What the tourist on holiday doesn’t see about those fake handbags is they may well have been stitched together by a child who was trafficked away from her family, and what the car repair shop owner doesn’t realize about those fake brake pads is they may well be lining the pockets of an organized crime gang involved in drugs and prostitution. And while those two things are horrible to think about, it gets much worse, because counterfeiting is even funding terrorism. Let that sink in for a moment.”
Yes that’s is very alarming and concerning. While one may causally buy or sell fake products the effects of it may be extreme and come back to haunt us with irreversible consequences. Not just that, there have been large number of fake seeds and pesticides, baby products and medicines sold in the market. One can only imagine what harm this can bring to the crops, patients and the mothers/babies that consume this.
So the next question is how does one fight this. While as a consumer you may vouch to never buy a fake product how can you ensure that the product you buy is not a fake? While buying online you can verify the website credentials, whether the website is on a secure connection (https), contact details are clearly mentioned etc you may still end up with a duplicate product. For offline shopping you may ensure you visit only trusted stores and can still end up with a duplicate product. This is where brands can employ technology.
Brands can incorporate tamper-evident unique elements in their packaging which are random and always unique and which consumers can easily verify through the aid of a smartphone or another device. While this approach is simplified for this article, multiple brands like Kitply, Epson, Tata Steel and Dupont have already seen great success by using similar methodology but aided by Cryptography, AI and Machine Learning.
Having said this, counterfeit protection is always going to be a cat and mouse game and brands and consumers will need to keep themselves ahead of the counterfeiters all the time but thankfully they have technology as their ally in this.