An increasingly large problem faced by many businesses today is the trade-in of fake (counterfeit) products. The problem has grown tremendously over the past decades, and recent estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now attribute a staggering 3.3% of all global trade to counterfeit products.
This might not sound like a lot, but, to put it in perspective, these counterfeits cost businesses around the world over $300 billion every year.
No wonder more and more companies are trying to find ways to catch counterfeiters, pirates, and scammers alike using anti-counterfeiting techniques to track them down. In this short post, we’ll dive deeper into the world of anti-counterfeiting and the methods used to stop scammers in their tracks.
Why anti-counterfeiting is so important (and so difficult)
Nobody likes other people taking credit for their work, so, understandably, companies are doing what they can to stop counterfeiters. But there’s more to it than just the credit.
Counterfeiters often create substandard products that might look like the original, but they’re often made of cheaper materials to keep production costs lower.
The unknowing customer buys the counterfeit, thinking it’s the real brand, to end up with a malfunctioning or poor-quality substitute. Since the customer doesn’t know it’s a counterfeit, they’ll think the brand delivers bad products, thus damaging the reputation of the brand.
Moreover, the customer might contact the brand demanding a refund. It results in a financial loss for either the customer or the brand – a lose-lose situation.
5 anti-counterfeiting techniques
Luckily, brands can use anti-counterfeiting methods to track down any malicious practices and stop them before they can cause any harm. Here are some of the most common anti-counterfeiting techniques used by companies today.
1. The threat of legal action
Although counterfeiters, in most cases, won’t be scared off by-laws and rules (they’re purposefully stealing one’s work, after all), it still is advisable to cover the legal bases.
The brand owner wants to show in as many ways as possible that this product is theirs and theirs alone. To do this, the brand must protect its intellectual property.
Applying for a trademark at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), registering copyrighted material, and patenting any unique inventions that might be part of a brand all help to ensure that the law is on the brand’s side.
Although counterfeiters can still copy the brand, the brand owner now has a firm legal basis to sue the counterfeiter for what they’re worth the moment they’re tracked down. It might not scare off all counterfeiters, but it will deter some.
2. Educating employees and customers
Again, this might not stop the counterfeiters, but it can help make their lives more difficult.
By educating employees and customers alike about the brand and how to spot the genuine product from a fake, a company can reduce the risk of customers falling into the counterfeit trap.
3. Scraping a search engine
Once the bases are covered, it’s time to try and trace down the counterfeiters. A great place to start is in a search engine (like Google).
One has two options here. Either manually try and find counterfeiters by searching for product-specific keywords, including the brand name or use a scraper to do it automatically.
For example, if Nike wants to look for potential counterfeits of their red women’s training jacket, they can search for the keyword “nike red women’s training jacket” and browse through the results to try and find a counterfeit.
Of course, this is incredibly time-consuming and inefficient. Instead, it’s easier to use a web scraping tool that can scrape the search engine results for you. Such a scraper can then export all the results into a database and filter the data to automatically detect potential counterfeits.
4. Scraping marketplace results
Aside from search engines, the most common locations for counterfeit items to appear are online marketplaces, such as eBay or Amazon.
By scraping results from these marketplaces, the web scraping tool can quickly determine whether any potential counterfeit products are advertised on the site.
5. Scraping reverse image search results
Another effective anti-counterfeiting technique is to use Google’s reverse image search functionality.
Again, this can be done manually by taking an image of the product, uploading this in Google’s reverse image search, and going through the results to try and spot a website that isn’t an authorized reseller of the product.
However, it’s much easier to use another web scraping technique. Through SERPMaster’s Google Reverse Image API, one can automatically extract all the results that include the specific picture and detect where counterfeit products are sold at.