Tackling counterfeit with ISO and IEC standards


This article is summarised with permission from ISO Consumer update, February 2018.

Counterfeit goods are nothing new, but with globalisation, the internet, and increased movement of goods the fakes business is booming. From fake versions of widely sold pharmaceutical brands to phony designer watches and handbags, counterfeit has grown into a thriving underground economy. And while counterfeiters reap significant profits, millions of consumers are at risk from unsafe and ineffective products.

Risks of counterfeit goods and how to spot a fake – New brochure

A new ‘Tackling counterfeit with ISO and IEC standards’ brochure aims to raise awareness of counterfeit goods, the harm they cause consumers, and what standards can do about it. The brochure outlines:

  • Some examples of fake or illegally reproduced goods, the risk of these faked goods, and how to spot a fake. The industries covered include pharmaceuticals, electronics, food, and consumer.
  • IEC and ISO standards that help with conformity assessment, namely standards that demonstrate that products, services or systems meet the requirements of standards and are thus legitimate.

Read the Tackling counterfeit with ISO and IEC standards brochure

Defining counterfeit goods

Definitions vary, but there’s a distinction between trademark misuse and pure product fraud, even if counterfeiting is often understood to cover both cases.

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines product counterfeiting as the ‘unauthorised representation of a registered trademark carried on goods identical or similar to goods for which the trademark is registered, with a view to deceiving the purchaser into believing that he/she is buying the original goods’.
  • IEC defines counterfeit as ‘goods made to imitate something of value, which may not be made with the same level of safety, quality or reliability.’
  • ISO defines a counterfeit as a ‘material good imitating or copying an authentic material good’.

How counterfeit affects you

Counterfeit affects virtually every country in the world and fuels illegal activities. Aircraft, automotive parts, medicines, toys, electronic equipment, clothing, and foodstuffs are just some of the products tarnished by the counterfeit industry.

At best, buying counterfeit goods is a waste of money. At worst, the goods can pose a significant risk to health and safety. In addition, measures to prevent or combat counterfeit cost regulators and industry time and money, which consumers ultimately pay for.

Dedicated standards committees

IEC and ISO have dedicated committees working on standards and solutions to help combat counterfeit and provide increased confidence to consumers. These include standards that test for authenticity, provide guidelines to measure the competency of testing laboratories, and provide quality and minimum safety guidelines.

For electric and electronic goods, IEC offers testing and certification services that assist in quality and supply chain management, ensuring that suppliers deliver authentic parts and end products are safe to use.

Image by Gdead (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Published in consumer and occupational safety.