The extended Covid-19 pandemic has forced many brands to close their physical boutiques to help curb the virus’ spread. Online luxury retail has become the new normal as brands take their business to the internet. However, they aren’t the only ones transitioning. Counterfeiters have also taken to the internet, specifically the realm of e-commerce on social media platforms which have become more common in recent years. Because of this, clashes between luxury brands and counterfeiters have become more frequent. Luxury brands and online platforms are thus joining forces to combat the proliferation of fake goods on the internet.
Just last year, we saw examples of these initiatives from Amazon’s joint lawsuits with Valentino and Ferragamo. The most recent case is the suit filed by Gucci and Facebook against and unidentified individual who took to social media to sell counterfeit Gucci products. Reports found that the defendant allegedly made use of several accounts on Instagram and Facebook to develop their “international online counterfeit business”. The multiple social media accounts were also used by the defendant to avoid enforcement actions from both platforms.
Facebook and Gucci filed a suit against the individual for breach-of-contract, citing violations of Facebook’s terms of service, and infringement of Gucci’s intellectual property (IP) rights. The joint lawsuit is a first for both companies, and the latest case of an internet giant teaming up with a luxury brand to combat the rise of counterfeit products being sold through social media.
Since time immemorial, luxury brands have worked to abolish counterfeiting which costs the industry billions of dollars’ worth of revenue each year. On the social media side, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have been trying to get deeper into the luxury market through what they call “social commerce”. The proliferation of counterfeit goods on these platforms works against the image they are trying to portray as safe conduits for the sale of luxury goods. The cooperation between Gucci and Facebook makes sense as they both have a vested interest in stamping out counterfeiting. In a joint statement it was revealed that “more than one million pieces of content were removed from Facebook and Instagram” based on reports made by brand owners of counterfeit goods.
It also added that the work done by Gucci’s in-house IP team resulted in four million listings of counterfeit products being taken down from various sites, 45,000 websites being disabled, and 4.1 million counterfeit goods being seized, in 2020. The actions taken by both companies solidified their stance against counterfeit production and IP rights violations, as well as the transparency they hoped to cultivate for their customers. As they said, customers “deserve to be able to shop for authentic Gucci products without fear of being deceived.”
As online counterfeiting becomes more frequent, it is likely that we will see more luxury brands working together with social media platforms and internet giants to put an end to this violation of IP.