Luxury fashion brand Belstaff has won its ongoing battle against online counterfeiters, reports enterprise brand protection group MarkMonitor. Following a civil lawsuit heard in the U.S. courts, judges ordered counterfeiters to pay more than $42 million in damages in the landmark counterfeit case, which resulted in an unprecedented number of offending websites, 676 in total, being handed over to Belstaff.
The legal result follows the company's decision to embark on a major protection program for all of its intellectual property, from registering of trademarks to individual products, including seeking external help from online brand protection specialists, MarkMonitor. The program was put in place to monitor the full range of the different marketplaces and individual websites selling counterfeit products. The search also focused on any websites using the Belstaff name in their domain name, as well as generic sites listing counterfeit Belstaff products.
Elena Mauri, head of legal, Belstaff said, "We are delighted with the results from the ruling. There are other high-profile luxury brands that have taken advantage of the U.S. counterfeiting law, however we believe that our case has set the bar even higher due to the unprecedented number of sites that were taken down in one go. The whole legal process took less than four months and none of the single top 20 websites that were cited in the case are still in operation today. We certainly wouldn't hesitate to take this legal route in the future, and we will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to any further illicit counterfeiting behaviour."
In today's digitally-led world, an increasing number of forward-thinking luxury brands are expanding their online offering and, in the UK alone, e-commerce now accounts for around 11 percent of all luxury sales. The growing trend for taking luxury goods online looks set to continue, with leading retail analysts McKinsey forecasting that e-commerce would account for 18 per cent of all global luxury sales by 2025.
"At Belstaff, e-commerce has been a major driver for the growth of our brand," said Belstaff CEO Gavin Haig. However, alongside the clear benefits of venturing into the online retail market, we were aware of the potential negative impact from counterfeiters. Right from the outset, we have been determined to stop our customers falling prey to counterfeiters, we want to do everything in our power to protect our loyal customer base and our hard-earned 91 year old heritage."
The majority of the counterfeit products were jackets and outerwear, particularly counterfeit copies of Belstaff's best-selling leather jackets. The counterfeit copies were many seasons old, designs that were no longer in production at Belstaff.
Since the court decision in June, the Belstaff brand protection strategy has remained firmly in place and the company is not ruling out using the same legislation against potential counterfeiters in the future.