No economic sector is spared from the work of counterfeiters and pirates. The assortment of fakes and imitations includes everything from medicines, spare parts, CDs and DVDs, to food products and cosmetics.

You can find more information on individual product categories below.

Buying medicines from dubious sellers over the internet is like playing Russian roulette. Not only are you putting your health at stake, but at worst, your life. Counterfeit medicine doses can be too high or too low or even contaminated; sometimes they don’t even contain the slightest trace of the necessary active ingredient. Instead, the medicinal product contains ingredients such as cellulose or insecticide, which have no business being in the product. Even if these products are sold as “natural, purely herbal” remedies, they often contain chemical agents that can be poisonous and are not approved in Switzerland.

Swissmedic information on medicines from the internet

The issue of copyright is highly topical in the area of digital media. The works of others are often thoughtlessly used on the internet. People decorate their own website with pictures by others, download software or share their own music library with everyone. For the artists and programmers, this means financial loss because their work is being used without them being paid for it.

Swiss Alliance Against Internet Piracy (in German/French)
Swiss Association for Combating Piracy (in German/French)


Switzerland has a strong watch-making industry. Swiss watches are internationally renowned, popular and an important advertisement for the country. “Swiss Made” and the famous brands are seals of quality for customers world-wide that can be trusted. When geographical indications like “Switzerland” or a brand name are abused by criminal forgers, this not only weakens the brand, but also damages the reputation of Switzerland as a country that manufactures high-quality products. This costs jobs and endangers the existence of both small and large companies. Whether on the internet or at the open bazaar, not everything that glitters is gold. In fact, given their poor quality, even bargains are overpriced.

Precious Metal Control from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security

Information on watches, jewellery and precious metals from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security


Luxury labels live from their exclusivity. Companies put a lot of money into their marketing and advertising to build up their brands. This is exactly why their well-known brand-name clothing and accessories are so sought-after. Whoever wears cheap imitations not only damages the luxury label, but also impacts the company’s employees and distributors. According to Interpol, the money made from selling counterfeit products is often used to finance other illegal activities, such as trade in drugs or humans as well as robbery.

Case study “Lacoste” for students (in German or French)


Smokers who are tempted into buying fake cigarettes end up with a different product than they were expecting. Legal manufacturers meet stringent quality and regulatory standards. Counterfeiters don’t care what is in the  product and they also don’t worry about the required hygiene when manufacturing it. Illicit trade in fake cigarettes is rapidly becoming a rampant international problem. It hurts consumers, industry and trade, results in huge losses for the government due to the loss of tax revenues, and also supports organised crime. Learn more about the illegal tobacco trade (in German).

Scandals in the food industry are increasingly hitting the headlines. Food counterfeiters copy well-known brands using cheap raw materials and no hygiene or quality controls in their production. Counterfeit or adulterated food products are a lucrative business in which the Mafia is heavily involved. Organised crime can be found along the entire food chain, from farming and production to the packaging and marketing of counterfeit food products.

Chocolate and other food products produced in Switzerland are popular worldwide. Whoever buys a ‘Toblerone’ chocolate bar expects it to come from the original manufacturer. Whether ‘Toblerone’ from South America, Gruyere cheese from India or Aceto Balsamico di Modena from Asia instead of northern Italy, they’re damaging the economy and endangering consumers.

Would you want to sit in an airplane with counterfeit parts? Or put winter tyres on your car that hadn’t been tested? As unlikely as it may sound, such products have been illegally copied for a long time. When products such as low voltage switches, chain saws or airbags are forged, the risk to safety is pre-programmed. Counterfeiters act anonymously and, as criminals, sidestep all control. Buyers are lulled into a false sense of security, and the name of the original manufacturer is misused for defective and dangerous counterfeits.

Art forgeries are a lucrative business. Not only do they damage the artists and collectors, but also the public because some forgeries make it all the way to the museum. Every year, organised crime earns several billion francs worldwide with forged works of art. A growing international art market, the low cost of producing imitations, the rising prices of authentic works and the internet all contribute to the spread of forgeries.

International Union of Modern and Contemporary Masters (IUMCM)
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