How to combat large-scale counterfeit networks

Using the 2018 World Cup as an example, we explore the range of counterfeit networks and large-scale issues that can face your brand online and how you can tackle the issue.

We look at one of the most critical pieces in the anti-counterfeiting landscape, clustering, and how an intelligence-led approach allows brands to shut down large-scale counterfeiting networks (clusters) for good. For Euro 2016 (the football European Championships for our non-Europe based readers) we have conducted a similar piece of research that details the distribution networks and clusters of counterfeit football jerseys.

Due to the complex nature of clusters, we break this down into two articles. In this post we explain why clustering is significant, re-evaluate the same cluster discovered during Euro 2016 and present our key findings. Our second post provides a deeper analysis of the cluster, exploring it in detail and explaining how best to combat it.

What is clustering?

Clustering is the technique of connecting seemingly unconnected infringers to one another and creating a network demonstrating the size and scope of the problem. This identifies large scale infringers / counterfeit networks operating online and offline, uncovers their business models and allows enforcement at scale, causing maximum damage to illegal operations.

Our re-evaluation of the cluster monitored during Euro 2016 showed that it is still active and utilising a similar business model with their use of distribution and promotion channels. It contained many domains, email addresses, social media accounts and even offline information such as real-life identities.

The evolution of the cluster

Whilst the business model remained the same, the e-shops they use to sell the shirts had changed. Many that we had previously identified had been closed down and re-opened under slightly varied URLs, containing the same contact information.

These closures suggest that there has been a battle against the network, but that the nature or the scale of the issue is not understood by those trying to close them down. The counterfeiters have not diversified how they promote or distribute goods, or switched their personal accounts and available details which shows they do not feel threatened by the current enforcement efforts.

This is problematic for those who are trying to shut them down. With the same distribution framework still intact, it is easy for the infringers to continue to promote sales and gain repeat custom. It also allows these sellers to build up a reliable reputation facilitating the further distribution of counterfeits.

The impact of clustering

You are only able to get on top of the problem with a comprehensive understanding of the counterfeiter’s network. If this battle had taken place with clustering and an intelligence led strategy then it could have been taken out in one fell swoop, ensuring serious setbacks rather than minor inconveniences.

Building clusters allows us to understand how their social media combines with marketplace listings or e-shops to boost sales. When we trace links between all these separate accounts we aim to take out the whole cluster, preventing the ability for replacements to spring up instantaneously.

In our second piece, we dive into the details of this cluster and provide a deeper analysis of the findings.

Learn more about Incopro’s advanced clustering technology here, or get in touch with one of our brand protection experts for a free demo to show you how it can benefit your business.

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