UKIPO’s second report on social medial influencers and counterfeiting


On 22 February 2024, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) released its report on “The impact of complicit social media influencers on male’s consumption of counterfeit goods in the UK”. A pilot report, mostly focused on female consumers, was delivered back in 2021 and commented by Eleonora Rosati on The IPKat here.

The findings

The UKIPO’s findings are based on a survey of 1,000 male participants based in the UK, aged 16 to 60 and who use social media at least once per week, so the same quantitative base used for the 2021 female study.

The general percentage of UK males knowingly buying counterfeit products is 35% (17% of UK females in the 2021 report). 24% of UK males aged 16 to 60 purchase counterfeit goods under the endorsement of social media influencers. This percentage is more than double that resulting from the 2021 study (10% of the female sample). The relevant type of counterfeit products are sports and sportwear, clothing, accessories, jewellery and watches.

Another interesting result is the resulting lack of clarity and confusion on the definition of “counterfeit”, which of course has an impact of the purchases (from the subjective viewpoint of the buyer, especially young consumers). This uncertainty is linked to (some) behaviours by (some) social media influencers in popular social media, where counterfeit products are presented not as such but as “rep (replica) or as “dupe” (duplicate).

Lastly, the UKIPO identifies some policy recommendations aimed at reducing the demand of counterfeit products. These are directed at industry, regulators, educators, brand owners, platforms and online marketplaces alike.  It is recommended that future research involves all such relevant key actors.

The recent “sweep” by the EU Commission

Just few days before the release of the UKIPO’s report, the European Commission also published the results of an investigation of the Commission itself and consumer authorities on online influencers and the lack of transparency of the promotional content of their messages - the screening (“sweep”) of social media posts from influencers. As a result of the investigation among 576 influencers, 358 influencers were identified for further investigation by the competent national authorities. One of the relevant findings is that more than three quarters of the influencers carry out commercial activity (both endorsing third parties’ products and their own products), but only 36% are registered as a trader at national level.


If we combine the results of the studies above, a first conclusion is that the role of social media influencers has become more and more important in the sale of counterfeit products and that most social media influencers can now be fully considered professionals/sellers and therefore liable for counterfeiting (as discussed by The IPKat here), especially in view of the attempt to change the notion of counterfeit product so as to induce the consumer to purchase. 

It is now widespread commercial communication where “dupes” or “reps” are presented by juxtaposing them with the original products, which are instead presented through their distinctive signs, thus inducing consumers to buy counterfeits. The UKIPO study points out precisely how, on the one hand, the activity of social media influencers has a major impact on the purchase choices of counterfeit products, and, on the other, precisely how the uncertainty created by the terms “dupe” and “rep” is used by (some) social media influencers to overcome the residual reluctance of some consumers to buy counterfeit products. Therefore, UKIPO's outcome and recommendations take on an obvious role, not only for UK, but a wider geographical spectrum too.

On a final note, it is worth recalling a Position Paper published by the Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs   (BEUC)  back in July  2023 providing similar recommendations for a reform to further regulate influencer marketing and for better enforcement of existing EU legislation in this sector.

Photo by Barbara Bonora

UKIPO’s second report on social medial influencers and counterfeiting UKIPO’s second report on social medial influencers and counterfeiting Reviewed by Anna Maria Stein on Friday, March 01, 2024 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. The authors say that "definitional confusion" feeds rationalisations of deviant behaviour. I don't think they have evidence for any such thing. They asked participants to define what they think "counterfeit" means and, not surprisingly, the people who gave it the broadest definition ("products which are designer inspired but are clearly different") were more likely to confess to purchasing counterfeits. Nobody is rationalising their deviant behaviour - the respondents who believe in different definitions are just admitting (or not) to completely different things.

    Sure, in between the question about defining "counterfeit" and the question about how many counterfeits you buy came the authors' definition to "guide the respondents". That definition said:

    Counterfeits are items that look identical to a genuine product with or without the official branding/logo, but are not made by the brand and may be of lower quality, for example, sneakers of an identical design to Nike Sneakers with or without the Nike logo.

    Crystal clear then. It might seek to mislead the consumer by use of the official logo, but then again it might not. It might be of lower quality, it might not. It might infringe some IP, but it might not. Hard to see why any respondent would just give up and revert to their intuitive understanding of what a counterfeit is, regardless of the definition that is there to "guide" them.

    What a load of rubbish.

    Patent attorney and deviant who sometimes shops in Aldi.


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