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The battle against fakes

Considering the growing problem to brand owners – and consumers – caused by this multi-billion-dollar global crime.

by Stuart Morgan

Image © ICE

Counterfeiting branded goods – making them cheaply by using poor construction techniques and inferior materials – is a massive global criminal business. Considering the popularity of footwear, it is not surprising that this is the most counterfeited product in the world. In fact, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in one recent year, 22 per cent of counterfeit goods seized around the world was footwear. Fake shoes and boots are also said to account for 12 per cent of all US Customs and Border Protection agency seizures.

The trade in counterfeit goods has been rising steadily. A report by the OECD and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office suggests that the sale of faked products now stands at 3.3 per cent of global trade.

While counterfeit footwear is often seized by the authorities in local markets and when being sold ‘out of the back of a van’, the use of online platforms by criminals has undoubtedly helped them to make a hefty profit. Sometimes, fakes are made well enough to appear quite realistic – perhaps the precision in the embroidered details is ever so slightly off, and the spaces between the lettering are not quite uniform, but unless they are closely examined, the shoes or boots could pass for the real thing. However, the regrettable situation often becomes obvious when a purchaser receives a shoddily-made, uncomfortable or even dangerous product (particularly in the case of safety footwear).

Damaged reputation

A research study has found that more than 55 per cent of respondents had been unable to spot the difference between fake and original footwear online and, as a direct result, their trust in the genuine brand was impacted – even if they realised the goods that had been delivered to their home were fakes. Many respondents to the study stated that they would no longer buy a specific brand if they knew it was being counterfeited. This decision can obviously impact on the good name – and the revenue – of a brand owner endeavouring to provide a world-class product.

Of course, some shoppers know full well that the footwear they are paying for is fake, but the temptation to get those trainers that apparently look just like the more expensive real thing is strong enough for them to ignore the warning messages. Nevertheless, when the goods arrive, they often come to the realisation that their money had been wasted.

What are brand owners doing about the threat from counterfeiters? For many years now, they have been fighting back by legal means, as well as employing dedicated investigators, using scientific marking methods and attempting to educate their customers on how to recognise and avoid fakes. However, as the previously-mentioned statistics show, this is an ongoing war, so it is important that brand owners regularly re-evaluate the steps they have in place to protect themselves from counterfeiters. In the same way that the Netherlands’ sea defences are vital to withstand an overwhelming threat, every proactive step taken by the genuine footwear brand owner is necessary in an attempt to hold back the flood of fakes threatening their sales and good name.

The photograph above shows US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents preparing for a raid.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 6 of the January 2021 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

Other articles from this issue »