As much as 2.5% of world trade is made up of counterfeit and pirated products, representing close to half a trillion USD. Footwear and clothing items are the most common targets for counterfeiters, but the scope of industries has been broadening since 2013 (12% more product categories were affected in 2019), notably in fake pharmaceuticals, food and medical equipment, raising alarm bells about consumer health and safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an estimated 25% increase in trade of counterfeit and stolen medicines, and one operation at the end of 2020 seized almost 33 million trafficked medical devices, including face masks, COVID tests and diagnosis kits.
OECD economies are disproportionately impacted by trade in fake goods, infringing on the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of U.S. holders most (39% of customs seizures), followed by France (18%), Germany (16%), Italy (9.8%) and Switzerland (4%).
Counterfeit and pirated goods rely on complex trade routes to cover their tracks, requiring enforcement authorities to identify the key producers of fake goods and key transit locations. This in turn relies on a wide range of data from border seizures to industrial activity, and the development of policies that are effective at combating illicit trade.