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Combating Counterfeiting in Western Europe will be of interest to all business of all kinds. Ask reception to walk you through any questions you may have regarding how preventing counterfeiting can benefit your business or call centre.

Counterfeiting forgeries of currencies and products

Counterfeiting a product is an imitation which infringes upon a production monopoly held by either a state or corporation. Goods are produced with the intent to bypass this monopoly and thus take advantage of the established worth of the previous product. The word counterfeit frequently describes both the forgeries of currency and documents, as well as the imitations of clothing, software, pharmaceuticals, watches, electronics, and company logos and brands. In the case of goods it results in patent infringement or trademark infringement.

Counterfeiting of money is usually pursued aggressively by all governments. The ethics of counterfeiting goods on the other hand is looked at differently in different areas of the world.

Effect on society

Some of the ill-effects that counterfeit money has on society are:

  1. Reduction in the value of real money
  2. Increase in prices (inflation) due to more money getting circulated in the economy - an unauthorized artificial increase in the money supply
  3. Decrease in the acceptability (satisfactoriness) of money - payees may demand electronic transfers of real money or payment in another currency (or even payment in a precious metal such as gold)
  4. Companies are not reimbursed for counterfeits. This forces them to increase prices of commodities

At the same time, in countries where paper money is a small fraction of the total money in circulation, the macroeconomic effects of counterfeiting of currency may not be significant. The microeconomic effects, such as confidence in currency, however, may be large.

Anti-counterfeiting measures

Traditionally, anti-counterfeiting measures involved including fine detail with raised intaglio printing on bills which would allow non-experts to easily spot forgeries. On coins, milled or reeded (marked with parallel grooves) edges are used to show that none of the valuable metal has been scraped off. This detects the shaving or clipping (paring off) of the rim of the coin. However, it does not detect sweating, or shaking coins in a bag and collecting the resulting dust. Since this technique removes a smaller amount, it is primarily used on the most valuable coins, such as gold. In early paper money in Colonial North America, one creative means of deterring counterfeiters was to print the impression of a leaf in the bill. Since the patterns found in a leaf were unique and complex, they were nearly impossible to reproduce.

In the late twentieth century advances in computer and photocopy technology made it possible for people without sophisticated training to easily copy currency. In response, national engraving bureaus began to include new more sophisticated anti-counterfeiting systems such as holograms, multi-colored bills, embedded devices such as strips, microprinting and inks whose colors changed depending on the angle of the light, and the use of design features such as the "EURion constellation" which disables modern photocopiers. Software programs such as Adobe Photoshop have been modified by their manufacturers to obstruct manipulation of scanned images of banknotes. There also exist patches to counteract these measures.

For U.S. currency, anti-counterfeiting milestones are as follows:

  • 1996 $100 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 1997 $50 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 1998 $20 bill gets a new design with a larger portrait
  • 2000 $10 bill and $5 bill get a new design with a larger portrait
  • 2003 $20 bill gets a new design with no oval around Andrew Jackson's portrait and more colours
  • 2004 $50 bill gets a new design with no oval around Ulysses S. Grant's portrait and more colours
  • 2006 $10 bill gets a new design with no oval around Alexander Hamilton's portrait and more colours
  •  2008 $5 bill gets a new design with no oval around Abraham Lincoln's portrait and more colours

The Treasury had made no plans to redesign the $5 bill using colors, but recently reversed its decision, after learning some counterfeiters were bleaching the ink off the bills and printing them as $100 bills. It is not known when the $100 bill will be redesigned in this format, but the new $10 bill (the design of which was revealed in late 2005) entered circulation on March 2, 2006. The $1 bill and $2 bill are seen by most counterfeiters as having too low of a value to counterfeit, and so they have not been redesigned as frequently as higher denominations.

In the 1980s counterfeiting in the Republic of Ireland twice resulted in sudden changes in official documents: in November 1984 the £1 postage stamp, also used on savings cards for paying television licenses and telephone bills, was invalidated and replaced by another design at a few days' notice, because of widespread counterfeiting. Later, the £20 Central Bank of Ireland Series B banknote was rapidly replaced because of what the Finance Minister described as "the involuntary privatization of banknote printing".

In the 1990s, the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong was placed on the banknotes of the People's Republic of China to combat counterfeiting, as he was recognized better than the generic designs on the renminbi notes.

The Swiss National Bank has a reserve series of notes for the Swiss Franc bill, in case widespread counterfeiting was to take place.

Money art

A subject related to that of counterfeiting is that of money art, which art that incorporates currency designs or themes is. Some of these works of art are similar enough to actual bills that their legality is in question. While a counterfeit is made with deceptive intent, money art is not - however, the law may or may not differentiate between the two. See JSG Boggs, the American artist best known for his hand-drawn, one-sided copies of US banknotes which he spends for the face value of the note.

Counterfeiting of documents

Forgery is the process of making or adapting documents with the intention to deceive. It is a form of fraud, and is often a key technique in the execution of identity theft. Uttering and publishing is a term in United States law for the forgery of non-official documents, such as a trucking company's time and weight logs.

Questioned document examination is a scientific process for investigating many aspects of various documents, and is often used to examine the provenance and verity of a suspected forgery. Security printing is a printing industry specialty, focused on creating documents which are difficult or impossible to forge.

Counterfeiting of consumer goods

The spread of counterfeit goods (commonly called "knockoffs") has become global in recent years and the range of goods subject to infringement has increased significantly. According to the study of Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) counterfeit Goods make up 5 to 7% of World Trade, however, these figures cannot be substantiated. According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition if the knockoff economy were a business, it would be the world’s biggest. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development indicates that up to 200 Billion U.S. Dollars of international trade could have been in counterfeit and illegally-copied goods in 2005 (2% of World Trade in 2005).

Some see the rise in counterfeiting of goods as an inevitable product of globalization. As more and more companies, in an effort to increase profits, move manufacturing to the cheaper labor markets of the third world, areas with weaker labor laws or environmental regulations, they give the means of production to foreign workers. These new managers of production have little or no loyalty to the original corporation. They see that profits are being made by the global brand for doing little (other than advertising) and see the possibilities of removing the middle men (i.e. the parent corporation) and marketing directly to the consumer.

Certain consumer goods, especially very expensive or desirable brands or those which are easy to reproduce cheaply have become frequent and common targets of counterfeiting. The counterfeiters either attempt to deceive the consumer into thinking they are purchasing a legitimate item, or convince the consumer that they could deceive others with the imitation. An item which doesn't attempt to deceive, such as a copy of a DVD with missing or different cover art, is often called a "bootleg" or a "pirated copy" instead.

Some counterfeits are produced in the same factory that produces the original, authentic product, using the same materials. The factory owner, unbeknownst to the trademark owner, orders an intentional 'overrun'. Without the employment of anti-counterfeiting measures, identical manufacturing methods and materials make this type of counterfeit (and it is still a form of counterfeit, as its production and sale is unauthorized by the trademark owner) impossible to distinguish from the authentic article.

To try to avoid this, companies may have the various parts of an item manufactured in independent factories and then limit the supply of certain distinguishing parts to the factory that performs the final assembly to the exact number required for the number of items to be assembled (or as near to that number as is practicable) and/or may require the factory to account for every part used and to return any unused, faulty, or damaged parts. To help distinguish the originals from the counterfeits, the copyright holder may also employ the use of serial numbers and/or holograms etc., which may be attached to the product in another factory still.

Visit and get a free advice on counterfeiting and start making smarter business decisions today. See how we can help facilitate you.

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