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?
Here are some of Victor's favourite tips for spotting a fake football shirt. Do readers have any others which they can add?
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?
- 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.