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Royal wedding sparks wave of dodgy goods online

The forthcoming royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton may not be stirring up much excitement at Thinq Towers, but it's helping to fuel a boom in dodgy goods, with counterfeit bling and tasteless tat of dubious provenance being peddled online.

One of the more peculiar offerings doing the rounds at the moment comes from a company by the name of Guandong Enterprises. It's a mug commemorating the "fairytale romantic union of all the centuries" - but look closer, and you'll notice that the picture of the prince in question is Harry, not Wills. Not exactly what Ms Middleton has in mind when she walks down the aisle, we reckon.

We're not entirely convinced the ad isn't either a clever money-making ruse or a deliberate spoof, but the site's PayPal payment page looks kosher enough. But as the company says, "You are welcome to purchase now to avoid disappointment and regret."

Unsurprisingly, Guandong is careful to note that the bone china bodge is "not supplied to, or approved by, Prince William of Wales, Catherine Middleton or any member of the Royal Family".

Another undoubtedly unofficial souvenir that's likely to cause sighs of a very different nature is the commemorative 'Crown Jewels: Condoms of Distinction'.

"Combining the strength of a Prince with the yielding sensitivity of a Princess-to-be," claims the site. "Crown Jewels condoms promise a royal union of pleasure." And just to get you in the mood for love, there's a picture of the happy couple on the packet.

Those in search of the "King amongst condoms" can buy them here - assuming, that is, you think the prospect of gazing at the fizzogs of the future king and his lady is exactly what you need at bedtime. If not, there's always artist Lydia Leith's commemorative Royal Wedding sick bag.

Still, the prospect of an extra day off to 'enjoy' the ceremony on 29th April seems to have garnered some enthusiasm among the British public - but the event could provide a still bigger massive boost to the UK economy.

In January, the UK's Centre for Retail Research estimated that the royal wedding would boost the country's coffers by more than half a billion pounds, with souvenirs accounting for £222 million.

The lucrative market in 'official' souvenirs is heavily protected by UK law. Royal crests and insignias are protected by trademark legislation, while images of the royal couple will frequently be subject to copyright. Even so, the rich pickings available have produced a booming black market in countries renowned for a more lax enforcement of intellectual property.

Back in December, a Chinese manufacturer was reported to be selling knock-off copies of Kate Middleton's diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring, originally bought in 1981 for William's mother, the Princess of Wales, at a cost of £28,000.

Made from unspecified metal alloys, and boasting zircon stones, the cut-price bling changed hands for as little as $3.

The total value of the online trade in counterfeit goods is hotly disputed, and is reckoned to be worth anything up $250 billion annually, with some of the fakes being more credible than others.

On Tuesday, search giant Google pledged to step up its efforts to crack down on counterfeit goods, promising to respond to complaints involving fake sellers using its AdWords system within 24 hours.