Do Fakes Count?

The news today regarding the seizure by US Customs of nearly a quarter-million counterfeit electronics devices makes me wonder: Do the various industry market research data include all those faked goods?

Consider: Some reports claim as much as $100 billion a year worth of fake electronics products is trafficked. Given that the entire consumer electronics supply chain produces about $1.2 trillion worth of products per year, and most fakes are consumer goods, that’s a pretty good chunk to add to it.

Not all fakes work, of course. For years, “salesmen” would hawk counterfeit PCs outside the doors at Nepcon China. But they were missing most of the important parts — motherboard, CPU, memory, etc. Caveat emptor to those who fell for the scam.

But what’s changing is that in many instances, the knockoffs so closely resemble the look and functionality of the originals, it’s hard even for company officials to discern. And you don’t get there without using real parts, even if they are of lesser quality.

The wildest example I know of concerned NEC. A few years back, the Japanese computer and chip company learned of a massive multinational counterfeit ring which attempted to essentially recreate the entire company! More than 50 factories in China and Taiwan were producing faked NEC PCs and consumer handhelds.

Fifty factories is a scale that’s hard to hide. That’s a lot of production lines to buy, too. It makes you wonder if they were building them on knockoff SMT equipment.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow