|If only counterfeiters were voodoo dolls|
SACTWU appear desperate. Counterfeiting creates a market for illicit goods that compete with genuine products resulting in large scale unemployment in the official goods sector. All of this is not surprising in an industry whose export market has been decimated by the strong value of the Rand over the past year - a situation caused largely by global interest rate differentials which ultimately, were caused by a much more sophisticated deception in the banking industry a few years ago.
However, toxic debt is not to blame. RSA has suffered significant unemployment for a number of years and its manufacturing industry, like many others, struggles to compete anyway with the cost of production of genuine goods made in other parts of the world, especially China (as this article illustrates). Ironically, critics of unions like SACTWU may blame them for assisting to cause their anti-competitive positioning. Furthermore, the temptation to sell counterfeits can be overwhelming as the illegal Ray Ban sunglasses salesman poignantly explains in the piece: “I have a family to feed. I must sell what I can,”
Without doubt, counterfeiting in RSA is on the increase. SCA IP decisions were dominated by counterfeit issues in 2010. The big IP firms in RSA now have dedicated anti-counterfeit departments. Higher sanctions (proposed in the article) may act as a deterrent but the problem is multi-faceted.
Educating the public of the dangers of counterfeiting like the cigarette companies are doing at the moment with their massive motorway billboards should help shift public opinion to reject counterfeits. Government initiatives like this one in September last year are useful but need to show that it has moved from talk to real, effective and measurable action and, despite successes, the court system needs to be able to deal with the problems efficiently. There are some very effective provisions in RSA legislation but the Copyright Act does needs a major update. Other less direct initiatives aimed at increasing growth and employment will also help as would efforts to secure funding (and use it effectively) from worldwide anti-counterfeiting groups.