Counterfeits in different industries III
Discover the specific counterfeit issues brands face in the perfume, automotive, automation and filtering industries.
Welcome to the third and final part of our series examining counterfeit products in different industries. After looking at software, sports merchandise, food, textiles, toys and watches, it’s time to tackle perfumes, cars, automation and filtering technologies.
The perfume industry
High-priced perfumes by well-known luxury brands are among the most heavily counterfeited goods on the market. The demand is high: many consumers want to own the signature scent of a global brand, but their budgets may not allow them to go for the original. Fraudsters have long since recognized this phenomenon and are offering various “solutions” to the problem.
Although this article mainly covers counterfeits, we have to mention the grey market of luxury perfumes simply due to its size and significance. Fraudulent sellers with access to your brand’s distribution channels may find (or create) a leak to acquire original products, which they then proceed to sell for a lower price at various marketplaces unauthorized by you.
Not only does this distort your pricing but it also creates significant losses of revenue and reputation for you, not to mention the loss of trust within your distribution channel.
But grey market sales is only a part of the problem affecting the perfume industry. Counterfeits, lookalikes, diluted original perfumes and many other dodgy products are available both on- and offline that damage your IP rights, revenue, and the health of your customers.
Because counterfeit perfumes are created in unchecked environments, their exact ingredients and creation processes are not known. And since counterfeiters often go for the cheapest and easiest options, toxic materials (including urine!) are likely to have made their way into a bottle of fake perfume, causing all kinds of problems from rashes to eye infections and more.
Unfortunately, many consumers don’t know (or care) about this when a bargain-priced vial of Chanel No 5 shows up on their screens.
Counterfeit and grey market perfumes can turn up in offline stores as well as on well-known online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, but also on standalone webshops and with wholesale traders too.
For example, take a look at the following screenshots we created with our tool screenseal displaying listings of Gucci Guilty Eau de Parfum pour Homme. Although we haven’t done a test purchase so we can’t be entirely certain if we’re dealing with a fake or grey market product, the significant difference in price is definitely a red flag that’s worth investigating.
Screenshot of gucci.com displaying a listing for Guilty pour Homme
Screenshot of a listing on easycosmetics.be displaying a listing for Guilty pour Homme
Unfortunately, a new trend of higher quality counterfeit products is emerging which especially concerns the influx of fake perfumes from Asia. The price of these products is closer to what you’d expect from a luxury perfume, which means that it’s significantly harder to recognize them as counterfeits, at least for people with no experience in online brand protection.
How we deal with it
Our marketplace monitoring service finds potentially IP infringing listings on over 150 online marketplaces and webshops. Thanks to extensive filter options, we can focus our research on specific regions (like Southeast Asia, where many counterfeit products, including perfumes originate), certain vendors, various keywords, etc. We may even exclude authorized sellers to speed up our work in determining which vendors are infringing on your rights.
As a next step, we recommend a test purchaseto gather more information about a seller and to learn all about a product’s origins. We run test purchases in over 50 countries, both on- and offline. Given the trends in fake perfume sales, we may also need to buy certain products in offline stores and from wholesale traders.
Finally, we put a stop to the infringement hurting your brand by enforcing your rights and demanding takedown of the offending listings.
The automotive industry provides almost infinite possibilities for counterfeiters. Fake products here fall into various categories.
First and foremost, the most dangerous products are definitely fake car parts. These are usually created from subpar material and without any health and safety regulations, which can have disastrous consequences for consumers.
Imagine a wheel that comes loose while driving, or an airbag not deploying upon impact. Unfortunately, scenarios like these can quickly become reality with dodgy car parts. In our experience, the most often counterfeited car parts are hub caps, valve caps, floor mats, emblems, radiator grills and brake calipers.
The second category of fake automotive products is that of fake brand merchandise. Just like with textiles, fraudsters here can create products the brand is not producing, like “Audi perfume” or “Porsche jewellery”. On the other hand, fraudsters may try to mimic authentic products, including keyrings, hats, wristbands, etc.
While these do not pose as drastic dangers to consumers as fake airbags, counterfeit merchandise can also harm a wearer’s health due to the unknown materials used for its manufacturing - not to mention the significant damage it does to your brand’s revenues and reputation.
Finally, due to the increasing amount of digital processes employed in modern cars, a new market emerges for fake automotive software products like navigation systems and firmware updates.
The sheer amount of counterfeit products in this industry requires brands to divide their attention and prioritize which challenge they want to tackle first.
As for availability, fake car parts tend to turn up on regular online marketplaces as well as specialized car webshops and niche marketplaces. Counterfeit merchandise is most widely available on all the big online platforms like Amazon and eBay, as well as print-on-demand shops.
Similarly, fake digital car products can be found on regular online marketplaces but also on specialized internet fora where users may even share the software with each other for free.
How we deal with it
Since fake automotive products are very versatile, our approach has to be flexible and comprehensive. What we actually do always depends on the specific case, but in general we can say that our marketplace monitoring service is a great starting point for finding IP infringing listings.
We can extend that by social media and image monitoring to catch fraudulent ads and fake brand imagery as well. When it comes to digital automotive products, our app monitoring service is indispensable.
In case we need to do in-depth investigations, we recommend a round of sales tracking to determine which sellers have the highest turnover and therefore which ones to take immediate action against. A test purchase is essential for gathering all the necessary information about a seller, including court-admissible documentation if you decide to take the case to court.
Finally, we’ll enforce your rights and ensure the removal of infringing content from the internet. In case of highly dangerous fakes like car parts, or if the legal procedure would simply take too long, we can also do a quick takedown to remove the listings to prevent any more serious harm to your brand and your customers.
Rather than one well-defined industry, automation concerns small and very specialized products often possessing a software component. Due to their nature, these products are of no interest to the general public, which is why they’re typically found on B2B marketplaces and can be bought in larger quantities, often sold by distributors.
Alibaba, Made-in-China and Global Sources are among the marketplaces frequented by fraudulent sellers of automation products.
How we deal with it
Since fraudulent sellers expect their customers to be businesses, we usually approach them as a business (either under a fake identity or via a company of our researcher) that has a genuine need for the product in question. We have a large network of business accounts we can use for undercover test purchases, but due to their nature, sourcing these products takes usually longer than on B2C marketplaces.
Our marketplace and image monitoring services are perfect for finding infringing listings and imagery that lead us to the fraudsters. We typically run search engine analysis to get closer to the source of fake products, and may even do on-site checks at manufacturing sites to get to the bottom of a case.
Just like with automation, filtering products are also highly specialized, often small and very sensitive to environmental changes, which means they require special handling and transport - something which fraudsters tend to ignore. The result may be a damaged, dangerous product.
Filtering products are sold on B2B platforms usually in large quantities. This means that a single listing of a fraudulent product may cause as much damage to a brand as a hundred fake listings on B2C marketplaces.
But not only counterfeit products pose challenges for brands here. Unfortunately, non-compliant suppliers may use your brand’s patents or molds to create products for unauthorized sellers, which means that while the end result may be identical to the original, it’s still an IP infringing product that damages your brand.
How we deal with it
Our marketplace monitoring service finds infringing listings on B2B platforms just as well as on B2C marketplaces. In addition, we turn to image monitoring and search engine analysis to ferret out fraudulent imagery and more information about the sellers.
Our strategy here is again to approach the sellers under a covert business identity that has a legitimate reason for needing the products. We then run test purchases to find out more about the origin of the products, and, if needed, we can even do more in-depth investigations including on-site visits.
That concludes our series on counterfeits in different industries. Thank you for bearing with us! We hope you liked reading the pieces as much as we liked creating them.
If you have any questions or concerns about counterfeits, grey market structures, patents, or any other issue your brand may be facing in any industry, reach out to us today and let us devise a strategy to ensure your brand’s protection.