UK: Cheat The Cheats

Last Updated: 25 January 1999

Stuart Adams, a member of the BBG's counterfeiting Sub-Committee, reports on the economic (and sometimes human) damage caused by counterfeiters-and worse, by consumers who knowingly and happily buy second rate fakes.

Many readers of BBG Calling will be aware of the advertising industry's slogan "No advertising; No choice." This is only two-thirds of the story, however. Why? Because advertisers the necessarily require goods to advertise, and those goods are "branded" products - "branded" because the manufacturer need a unique identity to differentiate his product from those of his competitors. So "No brand; No advertising; No choice' would be a more complete slogan.

This article looks at the threat posed to brands by counterfeit goods, and in particular the public perception of such goods. The problem will never be solved until consumers stop knowingly purchasing counterfeit goods. Doing so provides the demand that counterfeiters are all too willing to supply.

Two recent surveys give an insight into the psyche of the purchasing public, and illustrate the enormity of the problem.

The first survey to determine the attitudes of consumers to counterfeit goods, was commissioned from the MORI polling organisation by the UK based Anti-Counterfeit Group. Here are some of the findings:

  • 45 percent of men said they would knowingly purchase counterfeit goods.
  • 38 percent of women said they would knowingly purchase counterfeit goods.
  • Of those who would knowingly buy counterfeit goods, 28 percent were earning less than £9,500 a year, whereas 52 percent were earning more than £30,000
  • Of those who would knowingly buy counterfeit goods, 75 percent would buy clothing, 45 percent would buy watches, and 38 percent would buy perfume. Perhaps most worryingly, 14 percent would knowingly buy counterfeit car parts, 12 percent would buy counterfeit children's toys, and 5 percent would buy fake pharmaceuticals.

The second survey was a quick "straw poll" taken by myself during a presentation on counterfeiting at a meeting of the Dubai Business Women's Group. Asked whether they would knowingly purchase counterfeit goods, virtually all of the 60 or so members present raised their hands.

So, what are counterfeit goods? Counterfeit goods are products which are labelled, and usually packaged, in such away as to make them appear to be well to be well known products emanating from a well known producer, when in fact they are inferior, unauthorised copies. In all but the most exceptional cases, these goods will be of such a significantly inferior quality to the "original" good, that consumers are most certainly not getting a "bargain."

The whole World has a market for counterfeits, and Dubai is no exception. In Karma, for example, stores are full of counterfeit apparel, bearing famous designer brands. More worrying examples are car parts, electrical switch gear, and pharmaceuticals. It seems that no brand owner is safe from the counterfeits unscrupulous manufacturers and traders seeking to make a quick profit by imitating the product names, but rarely the product quality, of others.

Counterfeiters take no responsibility for their products, provide no warranties, and are rarely accountable to their customers. There are plenty of horror stories associated with counterfeit good, such as:

  • More than 100 children dying after a fake pharmaceutical product which contained a mixture of paracetamol and industrial solvent.
  • Counterfeit brake shoes being made of compressed grass which burst into flames when used.
  • An entire coffee crop being wiped out by counterfeit pesticide.
  • Counterfeit transistors being found in equipment used I the US space Shuttle programme.
  • Counterfeit screws being used to hold wings together.

Thankfully, none of these occurred in Dubai. Nevertheless, such activities should be outlawed and rigorously policed; and indeed they are. In virtually every country, remedies are available through the civil courts, the criminal courts, and here in Dubai, through administrative bodies such as the department of Economic Development.

Most countries' laws treat counterfeiting as seriously as theft and provide for the possibility of significant terms of imprisonment. This is as it should be. Counterfeiting is theft - theft of a brand name and reputation that a company has built up, perhaps over many years through investment in product development and marketing, to create a unique quality product that people desire.

Unfortunately, it is consumers' attitudes to the "non-dangerous" counterfeits which does most to fuel the fire. The desire to own and be seen in designer-label clothes and accessories all too often leads people to purchase fakes. They know they are fake, but are prepared to take the risk that the quality will probably be poor. Their short term view is that if that designer label T shirt shrinks to nothing, or fades away, after a few washes well they'll just go out and buy another!

Furthermore, they think that the manufacturers of these designer label goods deserve to be cheated. They tell themselves that the genuine branded goods are too expensive and the manufacturers can afford to be cheated.

The arguments against counterfeiters, even in circumstances where consumers are not going to be mislead are compelling.

For example:

If a brand owner chooses to charge a high price for his goods, that is his choice. The choice for consumers is to refuse to buy.

The high price charged by any given company for its products does not give anyone else the right to steal the brand name for their own benefit. Nor should consumers think it gives them the right to condone this theft by purchasing the counterfeits - in effect, handling "stolen goods."

Maybe a brand owner can afford the sales lost to counterfeit goods, but that doesn't make the theft any more justifiable. The argument is strengthened when the thief profits considerably from his activities.

Counterfeiters make no contribution to the economy. They are primarily opportunists who are not interested in building businesses to provide secure employment and invest in employee skills. Because they are operating illegally, in a black economy, they will not be contributing (where relevant) to the tax pool, either through corporation tax or personal taxation of their employees.

By contrast, the brand owner will contribute to the economy through employment and contributions to the country's revenue through direct and indirect taxation.

If the legitimate economy suffers at the expense of the black economy there os less employment, and less money in the hands of central government to pay for capital projects such as hospitals, schools and roads.

There is clear evidence that in many cases, organised criminals, and even terrorists are behind counterfeit goods. For them it has become an easy way to produce revenue to fund their other illicit activities and to launder their ill gotten-gains. Do we really want to support their core activities by purchasing their products?

It is obvious that purchasing counterfeit goods harms everyone. If we do not protect brands, they become less and less useful as a means to differentiate one manufacturers goods from those of his competitors. Ultimately, this must lead to less brands and, therefore, less choice.

As if this ultimate loss of consumer choice is not enough, there is another consequence to consider, which refers to the first paragraph of this article, and the slogan "No brands; No advertising; No choice". If there is less advertising (because there are fewer brands), then what happens to the cost of our newspapers, magazines, satellite TV subscriptions, and trips to the cinema, all of which are hugely subsidised by advertising revenue?

How many sporting events would suffer without the sponsors' and advertisers' contributions? The list of casualties are endless.

Responsibility for protecting brands rests as much with the brand owners and the enforcement authorities. Consumers have a very simple choice: to buy or not to buy counterfeit goods. They have a vital role to play.

Leaving the problem of counterfeiting unchecked will have far reaching consequences, which will seriously affect normal daily lives. Or are so many people so vain that they have to be seen in possession of top-name goods even if they are shoddy copies produced by parasites?

You can vote on this issue with your wallets and purses. Keep them firmly shut when venturing into counterfeit territory. Stop knowingly buying fake goods, and stop encouraging the bad guys before it is too late.

For further information please contact:

Stuart Adams
Rouse & Co.
The Isis Building
Thames Quay
193 Marsh Wall
London E14 9SG

Tel No: +44 (0) 171 345 8888

Fax No: +44 (0) 171 345 4555

E mail Click Contact Link

Visit our website at Click Contact Link

The content of this article is to provide only a general information on the subject. Legal advice should be sought for any specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.