Nicole Neily

For centuries, Istanbul has been a hub of global commerce. Stroll around the Grand Bazaar, though, and it’s striking what the most popular products these days are. Not carpets, not Turkish delight… but rather, knockoff handbags, scarves, and clothing. From Hermes to Louis Vuitton, Chanel to Prada, the season’s hottest styles are available on most street corners for pennies on the dollar.

“Fashion houses make so much money, they won’t miss it,” some people say. “The real thing is too expensive,” say others. “It’s just a purse.” At the end of the day, however, these are just rationalizations – and ones with serious consequences.

No, one purse won’t cause the crash of the House of Dior. But consider the many hands that have contributed to the process of bringing an authentic product to market. At the back end, leather and cotton suppliers provide materials, while patternmakers create the prototypes imagined by designers. Once approved, seamstresses and factory workers create copies of the original design; shipping companies then deliver goods that can be brought to market. Marketing, public relations, and accounting firms handle the front-end logistics of promoting these goods, including the careful branding and promise of high quality that is associated with these high end name. And of course, sales associates seal the deal for customers.

Think of these jobs – and how every fake item threatens them. Data from the US Chamber of Commerce indicates “[Intellectual-property]-based industries account for more than $7.7 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic output, drive 60 percent of U.S. exports, and employ more than 19 million Americans.” With unemployment continuing to hover around 9 percent, it’s clear that the country is not in a position to shed existing jobs.

Couture, however, isn’t the only industry affected by counterfeiting. Music, software, and books all appear throughout the Grand Bazaar as well, signifying the intellectual property theft of thousands of other people and companies. Pharmaceuticals are another popular knock-off product – and one with significant health and safety implications for consumers.

In a March 2011 60 Minutes interview, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asserted, “You know, we don't really know the full dimensions of the problem. But, we do know that in certain countries somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of really important drugs are, in fact, counterfeit.”

Nicole Neily

Nicole Neily is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.