October 2022 | by Lili, Marija & Marvin
In the first part of our Counterfeits in different industries series, we outlined how fake products are present in every industry, but there are significant differences in their nature and way of appearance. These differences require diverse detection methods and a certain amount of ingenuity from online brand protection experts.
The first article covered our approach to protecting brands’ IP rights in the software industry, food production and sports club merchandise. Now, let’s take a look at what we do regarding textiles, toys and watches.
A Louis Vuitton bag for 20 euros? Or maybe a D&G evening gown for $40? Or how about a hot pink T-shirt with a large Gucci logo in the middle, 100% original at 18 euros?
Most of us have encountered offers like that, both on- and offline. No wonder: the textile industry is heavily affected by counterfeits, lookalikes and other IP infringing products, which seriously harm the revenue and reputation of brands, and sometimes even the health of consumers.
There are two main categories of fake fashion products. The first type is when fraudsters slap a brand’s logo on a garment that the brand may not even produce, then sell it as a branded product. These items are usually cheap and don’t try too hard to fit the brand’s image. The point is the logo and the low price.
For example, take a look at this listing of a Dolce & Gabbana “dress” available at Wish. Although we haven’t run a test purchase on this listing so we can’t say with absolute certainty that it’s not original, the astonishingly cheap price and the general look of the product are both red flags that would definitely merit further investigations.
Screenshot of a Wish.com listing of a dress with a Dolce & Gabbana logo
The second type of fake textile products require a bit more effort from fraudsters. These garments do their best to look like an original branded product, and are often much harder to distinguish from the real deal. It’s the little details that give them away: the colour scheme may be a bit off, the packaging the wrong size, the stitching less delicate, or the material a bit more rough than the original.
And of course, the price: fraudsters usually sell these items for a fraction of the price of the originals. However, many of these listings appear as “last ones in stock”, extra birthday sales, or under any other catchy banner that tries to make a to-good-to-be-true price appear as believable.
Unfortunately, consumers are often well aware that they’re buying a product of dubious origins. But the lure of owning a garment with the logo of a well-known luxury brand is often too attractive to resist. And since many consumers don’t consider the health hazards that come with counterfeits (e.g. toxic materials used for production), and couldn’t care less about the revenue of a luxury brand, it seems that fraudsters and their IP infringing products will always have a market.
Several online marketplaces are known for selling cheap fashion products of questionable origins. Wish, Shopee, AliExpress but even big names like eBay and Amazon are vulnerable to fraudulent sellers wishing to make a quick buck.
In addition, there are single and general webshops (including those created via Shopify) specialized in selling fake textile products, not to mention the myriad of offline stores, markets and bazaars where these products are readily available to anyone walking by.
People shopping at an offline textile market
Since textile fakes are ubiquitous, our initial approach is to cover as much ground as possible to find the IP infringing listings and identify larger clusters that may form around a ring of counterfeiters.
Our marketplace monitoring service detects fraudulent listings on over 150 marketplaces worldwide, while via domain monitoring, we discover fakeshops selling one or multiple infringing products. Since fraudsters often use social media and imagery to attract even more customers, our social media and image monitoring services are essential to widen the net and catch counterfeiters not present elsewhere online, or detect links between fraudulent sellers.
We recommend test purchases for listings where we need to dig deeper to find out more about the seller and the origin of the products, and to gather court-admissible evidence. Then, to put a stop to the infringements by a particular product, we can enforce your rights and demand the takedown of the fraudulent listing.
Just like fake clothing, counterfeit toys can be really dangerous for consumers due to bad quality materials and poor workmanship. In the case of infant toys, these dangers can even multiply and serious accidents can happen when a part comes loose and a young child swallows it.
In a four-month coordinated effort called Ludus II, Europol has seized over 5 million potentially dangerous counterfeit toys worth around 18 million euros. This astonishingly high number corresponds to the report of Belgian Customs, according to which toys make up around 50% of all counterfeit goods seized by the authorities.
Our experience shows that Legos are among the most often counterfeited toys. Fake Lego bricks are cheaper, worse quality and sold via different channels than the real deal, causing significant damage to the Danish toy company, as well as duped consumers.
Imagine the annoyance of children whose newest “Lego” bricks don’t fit with their old sets. And bear in mind that annoyance is actually the least dangerous side effect of buying counterfeit Legos.
Assorted colourful Lego bricks mixed together
Other popular toys like Barbie dolls, Paymobile sets, Hello Kitty plushies and many others are also counterfeited and sold on- and offline regularly. Fake toys can often be found on various online marketplaces, including big ones like Amazon and eBay. The amount of fake toys usually increases around big shopping holidays like Christmas, causing consumers to accidentally buy fake presents for their loved ones.
Marketplace monitoring is our best starting point when looking for counterfeit toys. Since these products, just like fake textiles, are present on many marketplaces, a broad sweep approach is often needed to discover as many fraudulent listings as possible. Image and social media monitoring are also recommended to gather infringing ads and imagery as well.
Using their intuition and decades-long expertise, our brand protection experts investigate these results to find the sources of the products. A test purchase can be essential in these proceedings, as this service gives us valuable information about the seller and the origin of the products.
In several cases, we’d also recommend a round of partner compliance checks to ensure that your suppliers aren’t sending any of your product parts to counterfeiters or producers of lookalike toys.
Then, to top it all, we’ll enforce your rights and demand the takedown of infringing content from the internet, including marketplace listings, social media ads, images and more.
Watches can signal a lot more than the time. High-end watches have always been a sureproof way to show status, wealth and accomplishment. Unfortunately, the desire to signal these virtues often surpasses a person’s budget, which is why counterfeiters have discovered this industry for themselves.
Picture of a luxury watch
There are two main categories of luxury watches. Firstly, there are the very expensive, extremely high-end timepieces produced in limited quantities. Due to their exclusive nature and high price, these are harder to counterfeit, especially since the target market of these products isn’t overly concerned with price.
However, we can’t lean back in our chairs in this case either, because thanks to leaks in a brand’s distribution channels, these watches may also appear on the grey market.
The second category of more attainable luxury watches is much more relevant for our topic today. In this case, counterfeiters mimic medium price-range watches, usually on an increasingly professional level. Fakes like these have started to flood into global markets from Asia, being offered at a wholesale level in quantities of fifty or more. In fact, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reports that more fake watches are produced and sold than originals.
All this means that consumers are often unaware they’ve bought a counterfeit, because the tiny differences between a real luxury watch and a fake one are almost imperceivable for lay people (except for, probably, the lower price).
Nevertheless, these differences are real. Slight discrepancies in colours, structure and the shape of the dial, rough edges, cheaper material, a wrong identification code or serial number, and of course, a different clockwork all pose dangers to the wearer, not to mention the brand.
Our test purchase service becomes even more important in this case, since it requires careful examination to determine whether we’re dealing with an original product or a good quality counterfeit. In the latter case, all the extra information about the seller will come in handy when gathering evidence for a court case.
Naturally, all this leads to our enforcement service that ensures the removal of the infringing listings and/or webshops from the internet.
This brings the second part of our series on counterfeits in different industries to a close. In the third and final part, we’ll examine perfumes, cars and more. Make sure to check back here in a little while!
If you don’t want to wait that long, or have more immediate concerns, contact us and let us know how we can help you.