Cheap knock-offs: why saving money might cost you a lot more than you bargained for

Producing and selling counterfeit or imitation goods including copying products protected by patents, registered designs or copyright, copying brand names and logos of trade marks, and making “knock-offs” with packaging similar to that of another trader’s is intellectual property theft.  It’s a global, multi-billion dollar problem with serious economic ramifications for Governments, businesses and consumers.

Counterfeit goods are sold all over the world and include fashion items such as clothing, bags, jewellery leather goods, toys, cosmetics such as perfumes, hair care products, electrical products, automotive parts such as airbags and brakes, and even pharmaceuticals. These goods are often sold in market stalls throughout Asia. In Australia you can find them in ‘$2 Shops’, discount stores, at markets, and online.

The Australian Federal Police estimate the sale of counterfeit goods costs the global economy more than US$200 billion each year and if online sales are included other estimates say the global cost in 2017 amounted to as high as US$1.7 trillion. While you might save money buying knock-offs, there’s a potentially huge risk, particularly when it comes to counterfeit medicines and defective products which can have serious health and safety ramifications for the public, including:

  • Not being made to the same strict quality standards overall as genuine goods; and
  • Being dangerous and harmful to the consumer – for example a mobile phone exploding,  a braking system failing, toys that leave children exposed to toxic chemicals and the risk of choking, and pharmaceuticals which do not contain the active ingredient or worse, contain an ingredient that could cause further harm.

Aside from the potential dangers of cheap knock offs, the proceeds of sale from some counterfeit goods have been linked to organised crime.

And just buying counterfeit goods is equivalent to stealing from the owners and sellers of the genuine product. The genuine owners have invested time and money developing their intellectual property, branding and marketing as well as in research, design and manufacture of their products.

So while you might save money when buying counterfeit goods, don’t spend your money on them – you don’t know where they come from, whether they are safe and what the proceeds of their sale may be helping to fund.

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