For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Before you buy that fake footie shirt ...

With the International Trademark Association Meeting swiftly approaching, followed by the 2014 football World Cup, what better time can there be for a reminder of the tensions and interactions that exist between brand owners, legitimate licensees, infringers, consumers and enforcement agencies?  This guest post by Victor Caddy (Trade Mark Attorney Litigator at Wynne-Jones IP) offers a gentle and reader-friendly introduction to the need to resist temptation for those who may be wondering what all the fuss is about:

Fake or the real McCoy? 
Hmm. It looked all right
in the shop ...
According to the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU, here), intellectual property crime costs the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds every year. Increasingly, EU trade mark and copyright owners are finding it difficult to prevent counterfeit goods being bought by consumers online in an increasingly competitive climate.  With the 2014 World Cup just around the corner, many football fans from around the world will be parting with their cash to don their country’s football shirt. But at what cost? The growing problem of counterfeit football shirts is big business.  When you compare the cost of an authentic shirt (£40-£50) and the new England shirt (£90) with a counterfeit (£10-£20), it's hard to say that this doesn’t sound like a good deal. You might think you’re getting a bargain --but it is far from it.

A recent change in European law could see counterfeit goods such as football shirts seized and destroyed by customs. There have been numerous stories recently of customers buying what they thought were real watches, while in fact they ended up losing a lot of money as they were indeed counterfeits that were later confiscated. They ended being out of pocket and not knowing what the time was! This outcome now seems to be on the rise for counterfeit football shirts, and with the World Cup in the near future only growing in popularity.

Purchasing counterfeit football shirts outside of Europe online, whether knowingly or unknowingly. can lead to the consumer not only not receiving the goods but also losing money -- which can be extremely hard if not impossible to refund. But as new EU law clamps down on counterfeit goods, will counterfeit football shirts be a thing of the past?

The majority of counterfeit football shirts are made in Asia by low-paid workers in sweatshops. One of the most famous markets, Patpong, in Bangkok is one of THE places to go to buy replica goods. Some of the shirts are selling for as little as £2 – which almost makes the prospect too good not to buy. However, you need to think about what you're purchasing as the buying of counterfeit goods encourages black market trade and can lead to funding gangs involved in organised crime.

It can be fairly obvious that you aren’t buying the real thing.  Look for indicators such as ‘cheap’ or ‘discount’-- unless they are from official sellers. Counterfeit football shirts come in a range of grades, ranging from D to A. Grade A counterfeits look pretty much like the real thing but, to spot a counterfeit, look at the inside of the shirt for messy embroidery and a lack of inside printing. There are often holograms on the official football merchandise which can be hard for the imitation shirts to copy. The hologram will not be the same as the originals, or copyists will leave out a hologram altogether.

Even if you grab yourself a real bargain, that looks like the real thing – the chances are that the material and longevity of the product will be flawed. Much inferior material is used to create the counterfeits, which will leave you with an item that is much less likely to last until the next kit comes out. Not only may you have an inferior product, but think how it would be if you are standing with your friends and your shirt looks obviously different to the real thing.

If you knowingly purchase counterfeit goods yourself, as well as running the risk of losing your money and not receiving the goods, you are actually committing a crime that could carry a much bigger penalty than the £50 it would cost to buy an authentic football shirt. The next time you see a football shirt bargain online, think twice, is it really worth it?
Here are some of Victor's favourite tips for spotting a fake football shirt. Do readers have any others which they can add?

  • The quality and printing on the shirt will be inferior for counterfeit goods.
  • The label does not have a unique serial number on the inside of the shirt.
  • Every authentic shirt will have a manufacturer’s barcode. Does yours?
  • Look out for the washing instructions- fakes will not have these.
  • Be wary of goods with prices that are too good to be true.
  • The logo is very basic.
  • Sizes are often smaller: counterfeits produced in Asia will generally be one size smaller e.g. a counterfeit XL will actually be closer to an authentic L size.

5 comments:

Derek Freyberg said...

First a disclaimer: there's no way in 7734 (rotate 180 degrees, an old calculator comment) that I'll buy an England shirt, fake or otherwise.
However, my sympathy for Mr. Caddy is decidedly limited. 90 quid is probably >20x what the shirt cost to make (since it looks like a V-neck T-shirt with 2 logos), Nike probably uses underpaid (depends on what your standards of underpaid is) workers in Asia to make most of its products, and what is a sweatshop depends on your point of view (Asian versus Europe/US).
I'm a patent attorney, so hardly in favor of ripping off IP rights, but really ... copyright (14, 14+14, life, life + 50, life + 70 years, and who knows what will be asked for next) and trademark (basically perpetual) are giving IP a bad name.

Mats Björkenfeldt said...

‘intellectual property crime costs the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds every year’: Is that really true? In a new book from Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., Trademark Protection and Territoriality Challenges in a Global Economy, ISBN9781781953907, I read an article by professor Daniel C.K. Chow: Trademark enforcement in developing countries: counterfeiting as an externality imposed by multinational companies. He says:

‘Despite their claims, however, MNCs [multinational companies] are not really harmed by counterfeiting. Upon closer examination, the financial losses that MNCs claim to suffer from lost sales caused by counterfeiting are based on methods that grossly exaggerate both the levels of counterfeit goods sold and the losses suffered. These claims of severe financial losses are unsubstantiated and based upon dubious assumptions that do not withstand scrutiny. The actual losses suffered are most likely only a tiny fraction of the amounts claimed; in dollar terms, lost sales of genuine products due to counterfeits are likely insignificant and cause little or no financial damages on a majority of MNCs. Suppressing counterfeiting is not a major business priority of MNCs – it is part of the larger effort of MNCs to control every facet of how their brands are presented to the consuming public.’

Jeremy said...

Mats: while MNC estimates of losses through counterfeiting are often best treated with a high degree of caution, there's a world of difference between loss to MNCs and loss to a national economy.

For one thing, there is a loss to the public purse in terms of tax revenue, in terms of corporation tax, value-added tax and (where jobs are lost or are not created), income tax and national insurance contributions.

For another, much of the economy in the UK (I can't speak for other countries) is driven by SMEs, which employ around 14.4 million people http://www.fsb.org.uk/stats and include small distributors and retailers -- none of whose losses are referable to claims made by MNCs.

Take a look at the design sector, represented by ACID http://www.acid.uk.com/ -- you'll find evidence of businesses ravaged by infringements and counterfeits, pretty well all of which are small.

Mats Björkenfeldt said...


Thanks Jeremy, of course you´re right!

Mats

Anonymous said...

Bit one-sided this, and rather sounds like a scaremongering marketing speech from the brand-owners than reasoned analysis by a professional.

"They ended being out of pocket and not knowing what the time was! This outcome now seems to be on the rise for counterfeit football shirts"

Really? HM Customs and Excise patrolling the terraces and pubs, pulling shirts off dads and kids?

"The majority of counterfeit football shirts are made in Asia by low-paid workers in sweatshops."

This statement can also be applied to the majority of branded sports clothing and high-street fashion. Hardly anything the average punter buys is made in Britain by a well-remunerated tailor.

"It can be fairly obvious that you aren’t buying the real thing."

Indeed. That's why there is a thriving market for knockoffs which are clearly unauthorised, together with the artificially high (compared with the cost to design and manufacture) of the official garment - it fills a market sector that would otherwise be unserved.

"Even if you grab yourself a real bargain, that looks like the real thing – the chances are that the material and longevity of the product will be flawed."

This is true, but again also true for branded goods. There is a trend towards replaceable and wear-once garments, and the quality of consumer apparel just isn't what it was thirty years ago, when clothes (and shoes) could last for years before replacement. Brands are very often guilty of poor quality control or cost-cutting, with stitching that unravels, garments that fade easily in the wash, and buttons that fall off after a few wears.

"Much inferior material is used to create the counterfeits"

Not always true, when the counterfeit goods are the result of an after-hours run on the same production equipment and using "wastage" materials from the official run. And many counterfiet goods are as good quality as certain branded goods (see above) given the deterioration in the quality of branded goods.

"but think how it would be if you are standing with your friends and your shirt looks obviously different to the real thing"

Of course, if you paid £15, and they paid £90, and your kids are just as happy running around in the discount version, your frields might feel like they have been taken for a ride. Depends on the friends, really...

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