Agile counterfeiters target Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day, a holiday most associated with flowers, candlelit dinners and chocolate, is also plagued by counterfeits aimed at deceiving the well-intentioned consumer.

Valentine’s Day 2018 saw a staggering US$19.6 billion spent on gifts in the US1, (with 29% of those consumers having purchased at least one item online). Of this, $4.7bn was spent on Jewellery alone. Similarly, in the UK, Valentine’s Day is steadily approaching a £1 billion industry2, with most of this spent on physical products. This high-level of consumer spending presents ample profiteering opportunity for agile counterfeiting operations.

Valentine’s counterfeits

Evidence of the threats posed by counterfeiting is clear; US$31 million in fake perfume was seized in the US3 in the run-up to Valentine’s Day 2018, and it is likely that counterfeits many times that market value passed through international borders unimpeded.

 

Data sourced from Talisman, Incopro’s online brand protection tool, highlighted there was a 10% spike in opportunistic new infringing listings for a flagship jewellery product of one of our clients in the two weeks prior to Valentine’s Day 2018, followed by a sharp drop. For this same product, there was a six-fold increase in new infringing listings in the 8-week run-up to Valentine’s day, as compared to the 8-week run-up to Christmas. These figures suggest that large-scale counterfeiters increase production and promotion of relevant fake goods in the weeks running-up to popular commercial holidays.

Counterfeiting threats this year

Incopro’s data also highlights that many counterfeiting operations are moving from traditional online marketplaces to social media platforms. On platforms such as Instagram, bad actors will target seasonal events and holidays including Valentine’s Day, gearing their posts towards well-intentioned consumers with ‘heavily discounted’ prices.

For one of our clients, we noted an increase in counterfeiters promoting Instagram posts that listed imitation products and methods in which they could get in contact with the seller. Prices were included in the posted images in addition to the captions. These users attempt to divert traffic to their posts by hijacking hashtags that include trademarks (using trademarked terms and phrases to sell unofficial products is in fact enough to constitute infringement).

Furthermore, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) seized over 500 suspected counterfeit Valentine’s Day products worth an estimated £40,000 in January this year4. Among these, were fake perfumes that may have contained toxic substances such as cyanide and arsenic. Fake cosmetics such as eyeliner and lip gloss have also been previously discovered to contain incredibly dangerous materials such as mercury and lead.

Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russel of PIPCU states that fake cosmetics can cause allergic reactions such as ‘swelling, rashes and burns’5, potentially leading to longer-term health problems for consumers.

How can brands protect consumers?

As part of a comprehensive online brand protection strategy, brands need to be able to target agile counterfeiting operations that increase output for commercial holidays. Utilising keyword and image matching technology to detect infringements, you will be able to root out social media infringers and ensure that their fakes stay down. Using an intelligence-led solution, you will be able to connect counterfeiters working as part of larger networks, allowing you to enforce at scale and take down commercial scale operations.

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At Incopro, we work with our clients to create effective online brand protection strategies, leveraging our expertise in intellectual property, criminal intelligence and technical design. If you believe your IP is being infringed and are interested to see the scale of the online threats, you can request a free Brand Health Check below.

Our obligation-free Brand Health Check provides a high-level overview of the online threats to your brand, prioritising these by visibility to consumers, the platforms they are discovered on, and the regions they target. Your health check will highlight how you can eliminate these threats and capture the value you are missing.

Request a brand health check

 

References

  1. $19.6 billion spent on Valentine’s Day 2018 in the US
    https://www.thebalance.com/happy-valentine-s-day-retailers-feeling-the-love-3306043
  2. Valentine’s Day approaching £1 billion industry in the UK https://ipo.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/14/valentines-a-day-of-romance-an-opportunity-for-counterfeiters
  3. CBP seizes US$31 million in run-up to Valentine’s Day 2018
    https://www.ajot.com/news/in-time-for-valentines-day-cbp-seizes-31-million-in-fake-perfume
  4. PIPCU seizes over 500 suspected counterfeit items worth an estimated £40,000 in Valentines raid
    https://inews.co.uk/news/consumer/valentines-day-shopping-fake-perfume-cosmetics-police-warning/
  5. Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russel of PIPCU on the dangers of counterfeit cosmetic goods https://inews.co.uk/news/consumer/valentines-day-shopping-fake-perfume-cosmetics-police-warning/

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