Carl Bialik today joins
the good fight against counterfeiting
statistics. Welcome to the club, Carl! It can get a little bit lonely here,
but at least we have truth on our side. Carl nicely fillets the latest OECD
report on the subject:
The OECD’s recent attempt to improve on the guesstimate put all counterfeit
trade — excluding homegrown and downloadable fakes — at $200 billion at
the high end, extrapolating from customs seizures and guessing at how many
illegitimate goods are missed at border patrols. But the OECD acknowledges
in a report to be published soon that the number is based on incomplete information.
Researchers asked countries to submit data on seizures of counterfeit goods;
just 45 countries did, and only 15 of those offered details beyond broad categories
about which products were fakes.
Moreover, the data were extrapolated to the countries that didn’t respond.
Researchers then guessed at a factor that would reflect the rate of counterfeiting
for the most-pirated goods in the most-pirate-prone countries. They decided
5% was the most likely figure, but they were seeking a ceiling, so they doubled
it, got a total of $100 billion, and doubled that again to account for "statistical
variability" in their model.
Has Bialik seen the report? I ask because it still hasn’t been released,
despite the fact that it was all but finished as long ago as January. Back then,
the OECD’s John Dryden said that the report wouldn’t be in the public domain
before May. Ha. He also said this:
One assessment that has become very well known is that published by the Counterfeiting
Intelligence Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce in 1997 that
indicated that the overall cost of counterfeiting in the world was about 5-7
per cent of world trade, up from 2-4 per cent at the end of the 1980s…
What I want to make clear is that we have not produced an update of that 1998
figure. We can’t because we don’t know what it means.
Which of course won’t stop the world’s media from continuing to treat it as