Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Counterfeit and Pirated Trade: The current picture

Counterfeit and Pirated Trade: The current picture
Published on: 14/04/2016
This study presents key quantitative analysis on the exponential growth of trade in counterfeits and pirated goods worldwide. It highlights emerging trends, both globally and at country level, and the key industries affected by this illegal activity.

This study provides a quantitative analysis on the value, scope and trends of trade in counterfeit and pirated products.

It combines trade data and data on custom seizures from the World Customs Organization as well as the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union.

Its main findings are:

  • An exponential growth of counterfeits and pirated goods worldwide. In particular, the OECD's estimates of counterfeit and pirated products have increased from $250 billion in 2007, to up to $441 billion in 2013, which represents approximately 2.5% of world imports. This amount does not include domestically produced and consumed counterfeit and pirated products. In the same year, imports of counterfeit and pirated products into the EU amounted to nearly $116 billion, which represents up to 5% of EU imports.
  • Counterfeit and pirated products can originate from virtually all economies. The single largest producing country of such goods is China. Counterfeits and pirated products follow complex trading routes, including intermediary points such as Hong Kong and Singapore. This reflects the ability of criminal networks to identify weak points and the leverage of arbitrage.
  • The growing, general economic importance of trade marks creates clear monetary incentives for counterfeiters. Consequently, infringed products are found in numerous industries, ranging from luxury items (e.g. fashion apparel or deluxe watches), through intermediary products (such as machines, spare parts or chemicals) to consumer goods that have an impact on personal health and safety (such as pharmaceuticals, food and drink, medical equipment or toys).


This report shows just how significant the intellectual property (IP) infringement problem is in economic terms based on solid economic and statistical methodologies and real data. It provides sound empirical evidence of a problem and emphasises the need for rapid, evidence-based European and international policy responses. The Commission intends to fully draw on these results in its upcoming policy initiatives in assessing how the IP enforcement framework in the Single Market should be modernised.

Full study: Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact