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Published: Wednesday, 11/28/2007

Ohio firms plagued by fake items from Asia

Abercrombie agents identify fake items at a store in Bangkok. Abercrombie agents identify fake items at a store in Bangkok.

COLUMBUS - Counterfeit clothes, jewelry, and other merchandise remain widely available to U.S. shoppers despite crackdown efforts in recent years, and networks based in Asia that traffic in fake goods continue to cost Ohio companies millions of dollars each year, a newspaper reported.

The counterfeit industries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand thrive because of lax enforcement of anti-counterfeiting laws and governments that continue to look the other way as U.S. products are copied illegally, The Columbus Dispatch reported this week .

Theft of intellectual property is estimated to cost the American economy $250 billion a year in lost sales, jobs and tax revenue, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In 11 Cleveland-area raids over the last year, 15 people were jailed, and officials seized $20 million worth of suspected fakes, said Tim Richissin, a Cleveland police sergeant and investigator who monitors counterfeiters.

Viagra, baby formula, airplane parts, and computer software are products manufactured and exported from China. In some cases, factories producing legitimate products make fakes after hours, the newspaper said.

Last year, U.S. customs agents seized twice as many counterfeit goods at American ports as in 2005, with nearly 90 percent from China and Hong Kong.

Ohio firms Procter & Gamble and Abercrombie & Fitch are among the U.S. companies taking active roles in investigating Asian counterfeiting.

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