South Africa has lost more than R277million to counterfeit goods. This shocking figure was revealed at an International Intellectual Property Conference which took place in Cape town this week.
Speaking at the two-day conference in Century City, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the protection of intellectual property rights was critical to every sector of the economy.
“The challenge is that intellectual property crimes are treated differently from traditional crimes of theft. But the concept is the same, stealing is stealing. Everybody understands that it is wrong to walk into a store and take something without paying. At the same time, the act of downloading a movie from a file-sharing site, or buying a cheap knock-off of a name brand item may seem harmless,” said Cele.
He added that the accumulated economic loss from those illegal transactions could destroy small, medium and large legitimate businesses.
According to Interpol’s website, trade in fake and pirated goods is a transactional crime run by extensive and complex criminal enterprises.
“There is a clear link between illicit trade and other types of crime, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, bribery and money laundering. Illicit trade damages the global economy and harms public health worldwide. All regions of the world and all industry sectors are affected,” says the website.
Cele listed the consequences should governments fail to protect intellectual property rights: These include intellectual property owners losing revenue and brand equity, consumers being exposed to unsafe or dangerous products and governments losing out on taxes.
Interpol’s Operation Heera and Operation Afya deal with the trafficking of illicit goods and medicines.
Heera targets pharmaceuticals, while Afya addresses the illicit trafficking of a range of products.
“Both operations aim to safeguard public health and well-being by means of concerted regional action,” according to an Interpol handout.
The same handout, which was printed in November 2018, indicated that South African authorities opened a total of 22 cases, seizing counterfeit products – in total, more than 256700 goods (pencils, toothbrushes, branded electric toy cars, clothing, shoes, and illicit medicines.