Last year brought a hefty haul for the U.S. agencies tasked with finding and seizing counterfeit items before they seep too deeply into product pipelines.
Though protecting brands from criminals and their knock-off goods is quite the job, the groups tasked with finding the counterfeits have been making progress. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations - two groups tasked with seizing knock-offs, along with the Department of Homeland Security - announced results for the 2014 fiscal year.
A major substantial haul for counterfeit prevention agencies
The three agencies completed over 23,000 individual seizures of counterfeited and pirated goods. The total value of all those knock-off products was $1.2 billion. Through 2014, the government also managed to capture 144 circumvention devices.
"To be clear, intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime" Sarah Saldaña, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explained. "The victims are American businesses, and the employees whose jobs are dependent on IP-intensive industries. Counterfeiting is a crime of global proportions, and when property rights are violated, American jobs are lost, business profits are stolen and ultimately, consumers are cheated."
The majority of the illegal goods captured by the three agencies, $772 million worth, originated in The People's Republic of China. Though Beijing is making extra efforts to remove itself from the shadow of its reputation as a counterfeiters' paradise, this has yet to happen. In fact, strained relations between China and the west have lead to a number of issues that have made preventing a flourishing market for knock-offs quite difficult.
"Apparel and fashion accessories are still the most counterfeited goods."
Counterfeiters love clothing and accessories
Despite the continued prevalence of counterfeited goods, the three agencies' seizures in 2014 marked a 5 percent decrease from 2013's results. Despite the decline in captured knock-off products, some things still remain the same. For instance, apparel and fashion accessories are still the most counterfeited goods seized by the agencies. Of the seizures made in 2014, a total of 7,922 - 28 percent - were products from this commodity classification, with the haul for these goods in 2014 totaling $113 million.
Counterfeit goods aren't just a problem faced by the U.S. government and businesses, though. Knock-offs negatively impact businesses around the world. Product authenticity technology, such as patches on commonly ripped-off clothing items, are a good place to start to prevent counterfeiters' products from damaging brands.