The OECD, the industrialised world’s think-tank, will today publish its first comprehensive study since 2009 of the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. The illicit industry is bound to have expanded in the past seven years: trade of all kind has grown as the world has recovered from the financial crisis. The key thing to watch for will be whether commerce in counterfeit products (which infringe trademarks) and pirated merchandise (which violates copyright) has risen as a proportion of the total. That is likely, because the global economy is increasingly knowledge-based. Using the outdated 2009 figures, another OECD study last year concluded that the trade in fakes—everything from rip-offs of Microsoft software to sham cancer therapies—was almost the world’s most profitable criminal activity, with revenues of $250 billion (outstripped only by narcotics). By comparison, illegal trade in small arms and light weapons is worth just $1 billion.
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