Image: TFL

Seventy-one perfect of Gen Z-ers in the U.S. have purchased a counterfeit good over the past year, while 84 percent of their Chinese counterparts have purchased a fake product in the past year, according to a new survey. In an effort to understand the attitudes and perceptions of Gen Z-ers in connection with counterfeit products (and intellectual property (“IP”) rights more generally), the International Trademark Association (“INTA”) polled 1250 Americans and 403 Chinese consumers between the ages of 18 and 23 and uncovered some telling insights on the state of the counterfeit economy.

In connection with its survey, which was completed between August and November 2018 and focused exclusively on Gen Z individuals – because by 2020, that age group is expected to comprise the most significant number of consumers globally, INTA found that 83% of the American Gen-Zers had “at least heard of IP rights,” a legal umbrella under which trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, and patents fall. In China, a whopping 99 percent said they are aware of IP rights.

Of the American individuals who had, in fact, heard of IP, 82 percent said they “believe that [IP rights] are equally important or more important than physical property rights,” whereas 92 percent said that they “have a lot of respect for people’s ideas and creations.”

image: INTA

In China, INTA’s survey found that 94 percent of those who have at least heard of IP rights “believe IP rights are equally important or more important than physical property rights,” and 97 percent say that they “have a lot of respect for people’s ideas and creations.”

As for why – exactly – these consumers are driven to purchasing counterfeit goods – i.e., ones that are “exact imitations of a brand’s product and its packaging” – in the specified year-long period, INTA discovered that 73 percent of the Americans surveyed said that such purchases are driven, at least in part, by the fact that they “feel they cannot afford the lifestyle they want,” compared to the 56 percent of Chinese consumers who “feel they cannot afford the lifestyle they want.”

In both countries, the two most commonly purchased counterfeit products among Gen-Zers are apparel and shoes and accessories, with 64 percent of the Americans surveyed saying that one of the “benefits of purchasing counterfeit products” is that they have had “a positive experience with a fake product.” On the other hand, the majority of Chinese consumers surveyed (61 percent) found the primary benefit to be that “fake products are easier/more convenient to find than genuine products.” (It is worth noting that as of 2018, Chinese Gen-Z consumers were spending an average of $7,267 on authentic luxury goods per year).

image: INTA

While 13 percent more Chinese Gen-Zers purchased counterfeits than their American counterparts, only 35 percent of the Americans said that they “expect to purchase fewer counterfeit products in the future,” whereas 70 percent of the Chinese consumers surveyed revealed that they plan to buy a smaller number of fakes going forward.

Interestingly enough, despite the large number of both American and Chinese Gen-Zers who say they have purchased fakes, they claim to prioritize brand names less than the function of the products, themselves. 85 percent of Americans surveyed said that they “feel that the brand name is not as important as how the product fits their needs,” with 78 percent of Chinese consumers saying the same.

In terms of the 10 total countries where INTA surveyed consumers, which include Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and the U.S., Gen-Zers in Nigeria was where the largest number of those surveyed (97 percent) had purchased at least one counterfeit good in the year period, saying that they could only afford the counterfeit version of “some brands,” followed by Argentina and India – both with 89 percent.

Japan was the country with the lowest number of survey participants, who had purchased at least one counterfeit good (46 percent), followed by Italy (59 percent).