What is the difference if any between pirated, contraband and counterfeit goods?

"Smugglers usually smuggle contraband into and out of a country for commercial gain"

a shipping line can as well be notorious for shipping contraband goods

According to The Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus (online);

contraband (noun) noun 1. contraband goods whose importation or exportation or possession is prohibited by law.


2 Answers 2


Counterfeit is a fake. It's made to look like the real thing.

Pirated is an unauthorized manufacture of the real thing.

Contraband is a thing that is imported (or exported) illegally. This can also include things that are explicitly illegal, such as narcotics or firearms, for instance in a prison, even if they are legal to import or export (as mentioned in comments by @gracey209).

We usually think of luxury goods when we think of counterfeits; inferior quality with deceptive design and brand markings.

We often think of music and movies when we think of pirated goods. However there is an interesting form of piracy whereby a manufacturer who is tooled to build an item during the day for a recognized brand runs the plant at night building the same item but labels it differently and ships it out the back door. That's obviously an example but should show the distinction of pirated goods - same quality but different branding.

  • 1
    Just a small addition, The term "contraband" is also anything that is explicitly illegal, such as narcotics or firearms, despite whether they get imported or exported. It can also be place dependent, so in a prison, even legal things can be contraband, like cigarettes, or pens.
    – gracey209
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 17:56
  • 1
    @gracey209 for sure. Edited answer to point this out!
    – jqning
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 1:46


  1. Any goods, including packaging, bearing without authorization a trademark which is identical to the trademark validly registered in respect to such goods.....therefore infringing the rights of the owner of the trademark in question under law of country of importation .

  2. It can also be a trademark designed without authorization to be applied in goods in (1) above ;

  3. Any goods bearing marks which are identical to , or substantially indistinguishable from a protected trademark when used on goods or services differing from those for which a trademark is registered causing confusion as to source of origin .

PIRATED (copyright) GOODS

Any goods which are copies made without the consent of the right holder or persons duly authorized by the right holder in the country of production......

Came across this in The EAC Administration Intelligence Analysis handbook, Draft. Ver. 2/Dec.2010
[sponsored by JICA]

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .