From the left, Back Row – John Farrell (Reconnaissance International), Robert Glenn (Stretchline Holdings Limited), Julie King (head of department fashion and textiles De Montfort University), Malcolm Ball (ASBCI chairman), Dids Macdonald (ACID), Simon Tracey (Davenport Lyons solicitors), Chrissie Morse (Timberland and the ACG), John Scrimshaw (Fashion Business International) Front row: Sarah Wright (Olswang solicitors), Alan Holder (Pentland Group) and Rachel Parman (Shoosmiths solicitors)
Fashion and textile professionals from across the fashion industry assembled at the recent ‘Protect the Brand – fighting the copycats and fakes’ conference in London to hear how they can best protect their intellectual property and brand identity from the world’s unscrupulous design pirates and counterfeiters. Organised by Fashion Business International in conjunction with the suppliers’ forum for clothing and textiles, the ASBCI, the conference assembled some of the UK’s foremost anti-counterfeiting and design theft specialists. Speakers’ urged the fashion industry to unite in raising consumer awareness on the humanitarian cost of producing counterfeit goods and dispel the myth that it is a ‘victimless’ purchase with thousands of workers, including children, working in unregulated even brutal ‘underground’ sweat shops.
Delegates heard how the $900 billion global counterfeit industry is organisationally linked to international terrorist and criminal enterprises. Meanwhile, designers and brands were urged to audit their design development trails, patent their original design wherever possible then brand, protect and be prepared to publicly defend their intellectual property, IP, in a united bid to deter the copycats. Speakers also appealed to governments and customs authorities to impose higher legal and financial penalties with the ultimate sanction of criminalising the consumer for purchasing and owning a fake.
The conference provided keynote speaker Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID an opportunity not only to put the case against copying for designers, but to extend the message to 9 million listeners on the Radio 4 Today programme.
The event focused on the serious issue for many designers who often see their work “stolen” – copied by powerful and unscrupulous players, seeking an easy shortcut to consumer appeal. The theme of the day also concerned the billions of pounds diverted worldwide from the business of leading fashion brands by counterfeiters who benefit illegally from the investment these brands have made in their name and reputation. In the spate of recent high profile cases such as Chloe against Top Shop and Jimmy Choo against Marks & Spencer, Macdonald outlined the plea on behalf of many designers and creators who face a real threat through design theft, to urge retailers and manufacturers to support designers by commissioning original design, thereby creating their own signature ranges and, therefore, their own intellectual property. In this way retailers and manufacturers would not only support designers but also one of the UK’s greatest USP’s – design and innovation. By respecting the intellectual property rights of designers and brand owners, retailers and manufacturers would also negate the risk of being legally challenged over look alikes.
Macdonald also urged Government to place IP theft higher up the political agenda. According to Simon Tracey of Davenport Lyons who had undertaken a survey into Fake Luxury Goods and their social acceptance, the most effective way of changing consumer behaviour was to highlight the fact that often the proceeds are going towards the funding of organised crime or in worst-case scenarios – terrorism. Nearly 80 per cent of consumers said they would be put off buying counterfeits if they knew this to be the case. Also, amazingly, 20% of fake-buyers were from the £50,000+ bracket of salary earners.