The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) has launched an effort to train supply chain professionals and the general public to guard against counterfeit goods.
The free online training program teaches acquisition professionals how to recognize fake goods and what to do when such products enter the supply chain. The training is focused on private-sector supply chain personnel and state and local government officials. But it also can help educate the public about the harms of purchasing counterfeit products.
Counterfeiting and piracy cost the global economy $200 billion to $250 billion annually, and result in the loss of up to 750,000 American jobs, according to IPR Center data. In the past 20 years, the rate of counterfeit trade has grown eight times faster than legitimate trade, with nearly 90% of the bogus goods coming from China and Hong Kong.
Counterfeit goods can range from bogus medications and healthcare products to consumer items such as batteries that might overheat and explode. Other potentially dangerous knock-off items include air bags, electrical outlet strips and fire extinguishers.
The IPR Center was created in 2000 and consists of 23 partner agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations. Partners outside the United States include the Mexican Revenue Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
A staggering volume of goods and products pour into the nation each year, CBP statistics show, including: 11 million maritime containers arriving at seaports; 11 million containers rolling across the borders by truck; and nearly 3 million containers arriving by rail. An additional 250 million packages and postal pieces arrive by air.
Federal officials reported 23,140 intellectual property rights seizures during fiscal year 2014. Had those goods been genuine, they would have had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price totaling $1.2 billion.
Among the counterfeit goods intercepted by agents were water filtration parts, professional sports apparel, auto parts and consumer electronics. Other widely seized items included toys, pharmaceuticals, handbags and wallets, watches and jewelry.
The IRP Center identifies best practices for supply chain professionals to reduce the chances of falling victim to counterfeiters. These include knowing the supplier and guarding personal information. Terms such as “replica” and “knockoff” are clear signals of trouble, as are offers of deep discounts for bulk purchases.
The Center reminds acquisition professionals and consumers of the old adage: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.