Japan disaster: counterfeiting predators will feed on human suffering
While our hearts go out to the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, we will also, as time goes on, have to face the economic aftershocks including increased counterfeit activity.
So goes the message of Gerson Lehrman Group, a research organization.
The group points out that some 14% of electronic production worldwide is sourced in Japan, mainly in computers, communications gear and consumer electronics. "Significant shortages," of these Japan-sourced goods is likely, as the product becomes scarcer and more difficult to source.
Electronics hard hit
Some parts may be sourced from alternative channels, but some must be had from the original manufacturer. and when those are not available, counterfeit stand-ins may be passed off as the real thing.
Sony, for example, though continuing to function and by no means crushed, was quickly overwhelmed by events, despite extensive disaster contingency plans, according to a NY Times article on March 20.
Eight Sony factories, dedicated to making items like lithium-ion batteries and semiconductor lasers, were thrown off line, endangering the production of microchips by companies supplied by Sony. It is a dangerous opening for counterfeit microchip sellers and greatly heightens the need for product authentication.
Sony headquarters itself lies only 170 miles from the stricken nuclear power plant.
Canon is said to have closed down some of its printer production.
Shortages drive counterfeits
The opportunity for the global counterfeit black market lies not only in sheer shortage of product and parts but in the soaring prices that are caused by shortages. The profits may be too tempting to ignore for the counterfeiting criminals.
We place the human suffering first, and our own economic interests later in this tragedy. We urge our readers to contribute in any way to help the victims. But it is also wise to look out on, as the report puts it, the "economic aftershocks of the quake."
"Shortages of supply are one of the major drivers of counterfeit attack. However repugnant it may be to consider such matters, it is inevitable that there are criminal organizations planning now how best to take advantage of these vulnerabilities."