Counterfeiting in the bleak midwinter

Counterfeit winter clothing not only harms brand reputations of real manufacturers but could also potentially hurt consumers

Winter is long and harsh in Sweden with heavy snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures. I know that winter kicks-in from early November until March for many northern areas, and with my first trip of the season to Stockholm just a few hours away, I rooted out my cold weather gear. A few years back, when I called this part of the world my home, I used to invest in a seriously warm winter coat. The fashion brand to be seen in, is Canada Goose.  Stylish and warm, it even gets a tick in the "cool" box from the trend police - my two young daughters.

Like all well known brands, this Canadian company also faces serious issues where cheap counterfeit goods flood the market; especially in the Nordics where the brand is most popular.   Recently, it won a small but significant battle in the war against counterfeiting. The District Court of Stockholm found five Swedes guilty of trademark infringement and customs offences after they were caught selling counterfeit Canada Goose jackets.  The items seized by customs officials were fairly sophisticated fakes, although they had used cheap materials such as racoon instead of coyote fur for the trademarked hoods.

The company has already taken a number of steps to try and prevent damage to its brand, reputation, revenues and customers.  It has changed the product design to incorporate a number of unique features such as holograms, and also controls production through its manufacturing plant in Canada.  Whilst Canada Goose can claim progress in the fight against brand abuse, a vast number of other clothing and apparel companies still have their heads buried in snow drifts, not wanting to recognize that they too have a problem, or are too daunted to construct a strategy to deal with the issue.

It goes without saying that one would need to wear more clothes in the cold than in the warm. For fashion-conscious Scandinavia, looking the part is very important.  This is why many people here are still willing to trade-in internal quality for the sake of external appearance, and thus still fuel the counterfeit markets. Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery in the academic world but in the manufacturing world, it is simply called counterfeiting and Intellectual Property Theft.

Fake winter clothing not only harms real manufacturers but could also potentially hurt consumers who believe that they are buying legitimately discounted brands that will provide them protection against harsh winters.  Unfortunately, as Canada Goose found, more often than not, the fakes are filled with substandard materials that may give an outward impression of authenticity but fail to provide basic warmth in extreme temperatures when they experience the cold in this part of the world.

You don't have to walk far from the main shopping streets of Drottninggatan in Stockholm to find these fakes. Second hand markets in the suburbs are a popular destination for bargain hunters.  Whilst the Swedes may have socialist values at their core, the need for a bargain is still there for all to see.

The good news is that with an effective brand protection strategy, companies can quickly take action against their goods being counterfeited.  Fortunately, the vast amounts of fake products are sold online, which means that fraudsters have to use searchable terms to attract traffic to their websites. With an effective brand protection strategy in place, organizations can simply use the same methods to find the goods themselves by using solutions such as NetNames brand monitoring and acquisition services. With the right expertise, the fraudulent websites themselves can be shutdown very quickly. It also helps to have good relationships built on respect and trust between the brand owner and the market place site which can be critical to  eliminating online sales of counterfeits listed on common online market place websites.

Canada Goose recently stated in a magazine article that counterfeiting has bumped up its cost of doing business by six figures every year, with four people being employed by the firm to manage the problem.  The Swedish District Court estimated that up to 10% of all goods sold in the European Union were counterfeits - and this is with a brand protection strategy and resources in place.

For many other brands that operate in this market, it is not too late to take action.  It only takes a few hours to start a full-frontal attack on criminals and brand infringers. Once an online protection strategy has been implemented, putting the heat on criminals who want to operate in such cold climates will be easier.


Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames

23 November 2012