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Tired of paying $2000 for a Louis Vuitton handbag? Snatch up a replica of the designer's work in Hong Kong's street markets for only a thousand, and it will take a leather expert and a microscope to tell it apart from the real McCoy. Such sophisticated counterfeiting only scratches the surface of a problem that is plaguing corporations around the world.
In Asia, this business draws everyone from powerful underworld organizations with ties to politics and the military to husband-and-wife teams who brew fake Coca-Cola in bathtubs. The prevalence of and demand for these rip-off goods accounts for approximately US$200 to 300 billion in annual global losses for multinationals such as Nike or Yamaha.
Look at a typical illegal CD plant based in Malaysia. After bribing key officials and plunking down cash for CD duplication machines and such, the plant can expect to take in about US$1 million each month. Sometimes, the profit margins are better than in trafficking narcotics.
Corporations, increasingly frustrated with ineffectual efforts by governments to crack down on piracy, have either turned to private detectives for help or have even built their own antipiracy squads in hopes of stemming the avalanche of bogus merchandise.
Unlike law enforcement agencies, however, piracy profiteers play by no rules, and arrests and convictions are few and far between. Consequently, corporations point out that without better cooperation from governments, their war has already been lost.