The counterfeiters who steal Christmas

By Frank Cullen

They may not have green fur or hearts that are three sizes too small. Yet counterfeiters — individuals who illegally reproduce and sell fake versions of a trademarked product — are stealing an unprecedented amount of intellectual property from underneath inventors’ trees this year.

As of August, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had confiscated $2.4 billion in counterfeit goods. At the Port of Los Angeles, officials had already seized a record-breaking $1 billion in counterfeit goods by September — a 38% increase from all of last year.

Amid the holidays, that number is only increasing. Though fake purses, jewelry dupes, knock-off electronics, and other counterfeit goods infiltrate our supply chain year-round, the holidays make for a particularly lucrative market as consumers shop for gifts for loved ones.

Counterfeit goods aren’t just illegal. They can also put the health, and even lives, of your loved ones at risk. For instance, counterfeit electronics and batteries can cause fires, or even explode. And personal care products, clothing, and even fake handbags can be made with dangerous substances that can irritate the skin or cause severe reactions in children and adults.

Beyond these health risks, counterfeits significantly dampen the U.S. economy and make us less competitive with our global rivals.

When a counterfeiter recreates a product without the original manufacturer’s permission, they infringe upon that manufacturer’s intellectual property and siphon billions of dollars away from our economy and the companies that make the products consumers crave as holiday gifts. That leaves many consumers disappointed and U.S. inventors with less money and fewer incentives to continue developing new products.

The impact on the economy is startling. Counterfeit goods cost the global economy $500 billion per year. In 2019, counterfeit goods are estimated to have cost the United States $131 billion and more than 325,000 jobs.

A large majority of fake goods come from China. That means China’s economy is getting a major boost at the expense of American innovators — at a time when competition between the two economic powerhouses is at an all-time high.

This holiday season, counterfeit goods are as prevalent as ever. Consumers should be sure not to touch them — even with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

Frank Cullen is executive director of the Council for Innovation Promotion.

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