The global trade in counterfeit goods has reached staggering proportions, growing 10 000% over the past two decades, and resulting in a highly-profitable, illegal industry worth between R1.6 trillion and R4.8 trillion annually.  To put this in perspective, this amounts to roughly 8% of world trade.

Unfortunately, South Africa has become a major target for counterfeiters, with counterfeit goods in excess of R600 million being seized since 1997.  Although there is a widespread impression that counterfeiting is a victimless crime, this is far from the truth.  Apart from tax revenue lost, trade in counterfeit goods results in massive job losses, and erodes the market for genuine products.  Closer to home, the consumption of counterfeit goods poses a real danger to human health and safety, as counterfeiting expands beyond the traditional bounds of luxury goods, DVD’s, clothing and cigarettes, to children’s toys, automotive parts, food products, and pharmaceuticals.

From a brand protection perspective, counterfeiting impacts detrimentally on reputation and goodwill, in addition to causing a loss in sales and profits.  Almost any conceivable product is fair game to counterfeiters, and the more popular and successful a brand becomes, the more appealing it becomes to counterfeiters.

As a brand owner, it is vital that you take steps to protect your core brands.  The Counterfeit Goods Act gives brand holders a powerful weapon to deal with counterfeiters, with the help of SARS Customs and the Police.  However, goods which are suspected to be counterfeit will only be seized and detained by Customs if the intellectual property rights of the brand holder in question have been registered with Customs.