IMITATION may be the ''sincerest form of flattery'' - but not to scores of US manufacturers finding their brand-name products counterfeited and duplicated by overseas companies.
Industrial and manufacturing ''piracy'' is what US companies call the practice. All told, it is estimated that the United States loses billions of dollars annually through the counterfeiting of American goods - products ranging from books and records to computers, jackets, and sporting goods. That's not all. The US International Trade Commission reckons that at least 130,000 jobs in the US are lost annually because of such piracy.
The counterfeiting is usually traced back to companies in developing nations, especially in Asia. Now, some of these space-age buccaneers are beginning to copy US-made high-technology products.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey has introduced legislation that would require the president to initiate a comprehensive review of such practices and submit a report to Congress within a year. He would also have the US deny certain trading rights to other nations unless they took greater steps to crack down on counterfeiting. The bill is before the Senate Finance Committee. Congress should give serious consideration to Mr. Lautenberg's proposal.