In October 2014, Converse, the US shoe company, filed 31 lawsuits against companies which it claims are copying the design of its trademark shoe – the Chuck Taylor sneaker. Wal-Mart and Ralph Lauren are among the retailers which have had lawsuits filed against them. In order to protect its trademarks, Converse has reportedly issued around 180 cease and desist letters to retailers selling look-a-like Chuck Taylor sneakers in the past six years.

An uphill battle against counterfeiters…

Converse’s lawsuits highlight the uphill battle that fashion brands face in protecting their trademarks. Legal mechanisms are essential to protect companies’ rights and revenues, and Converse clearly has trademarks in place to safeguard its iconic designs. It should not hesitate to leverage these rights where it believes it is necessary.

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However, it is not just look-a-like goods being sold by legitimate retailers which are a problem. The internet is a vast, unregulated space where counterfeiters and e-criminals are able to promote and sell imitation goods on an immense global scale. In 2013 alone, NetNames removed two billion items from online auction sites and shut down thousands of rogue websites on behalf of its customers, all of which we focused on selling counterfeit goods.

It isn’t just about protecting revenue…

According to Home Office figures, £1.3 billion worth of counterfeit goods are sold in the UK each year. This represents a significant amount of revenue being lost by brand owners, whose customers are often unknowingly purchasing inferior, and in some cases dangerous, imitations of the real thing. Counterfeit goods undoubtedly have a negative impact on a brand’s revenue. However, the risks extend beyond just financial impacts. Reputational damage also has a significant impact on a brand’s value, and recent NetNames research revealed that 78 percent of consumers said they would shun a brand if they ended up on a bogus website pretending to be that brand. Brands need to develop an effective online strategy that dovetails with their business objectives whilst protecting both their intellectual property and online customers.

Fashion brands must be alert to the threats posed by imitations and counterfeit goods, in addition to the challenges presented by the internet as a distribution network for these products. Businesses can and should identify the greatest threats to their brand and seek to take action, particularly where there are well defined processes on the internet. Only then will brands be able to protect their customers, brand value, and revenues from the online criminals.

By Haydn Simpson, Brand Protection Director, NetNames

About NetNames

NetNamesWith online channels becoming increasingly important for a corporate’s commercial and marketing activities, NetNames offers a single point of contact for management of internet domain names, in all locations, globally, and protection for brands across all online environments. NetNames offers expertise, infrastructure and service levels which are hard for corporates to replicate internally and enjoys long term relationships with large and mid-sized corporates.

Headquartered in London, NetNames’ global network includes offices in Cambridge, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Zurich, Munich, New York, San Francisco, Melbourne and Singapore.

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