• Author: Dr. Mohan Dewan

Counterfeit products, in the trademark sense, are produced with the intention of taking advantage of the popularity of a brand and the superior value of the goods and services associated with that brand. In the case of “knock-offs” of popular fashion brands, they serve the purpose of satisfying a demand from a class of customers that covet the products associated with that brand but are unable to pay a high price for it. Generally, such counterfeits are not toxic or dangerous, but, in the case of counterfeit or spurious drugs or food, the counterfeiters pray on the need of the customer for a product, which may be very expensive or in short supply. These counterfeits are often harmful and sometimes fatally dangerous.

In recent times, counterfeiting has become more and more sophisticated and sometimes it is often difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish a genuine product from its counterfeit. Modern Counterfeiters work across borders making different parts of the products at different locations, manufacturing them at one, assembling them at a second, false labelling them at a third and selling them at an entirely different fourth location.

In anti-counterfeit actions, mostly the fourth level individuals who are actually trading or retailing the counterfeit products are caught in the net and the goods are confiscated and destroyed but most counterfeit operations have now factored in some fourth level arrest and confiscation as part of their normal operations. Attacking only the final retailers who are involved in counterfeiting generally proves unproductive. Anti counterfeiting actions, therefore, need the assistance of intelligence agencies skilled to travel up the chain and unearth and nab the source. Even sometimes when these sources are located, they are found to be highly influential individuals or entities who have otherwise respectable operations. In some cases, the out sourced manufacturer of the genuine product by day is also found to be responsible for the counterfeit product by night which makes differentiating the counterfeit products almost impossible.

Anti counterfeiting actions are generally part of the criminal jurisprudence of most countries and the police machinery is needed to effectively counter against counterfeiting. In recent times, the custom authorities have also joined in in these operations and assist the local police in Trans border counterfeiting. Organizations like the IACC (International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition) include members and brand owners who have come together to pool their resources in acting against this menace and protect the intellectual property of its members. Stake holders include small privately owned enterprises and large multinationals who share a common goal combating counterfeiting. Continuous big and small anti-counterfeiting actions are required, to control the proliferation of this crime. However, as long as consumer demand exist for low cost products, trafficking will continue and there is a strong need to educate consumers not to encourage these criminals and to explain to them, how in the case of pharmaceutical and drugs, they may even be playing with their lives.

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