Posted by Barry Silverstein on August 3, 2010 10:00 AM
Christian Louboutin is just one example of how luxury brands are being forced to react to counterfeiters. The maker of high-end shoes and handbags has "gone to war" on the Internet, listing those sites that sell knock-offs of its $600-and-up shoes in hopes that public shaming will stop some of the bleeding.
Other luxury brands are striking back, too. Versace recently won $20 million in damages in a case involving fake goods.
But the knock-off artists aren't going away. Instead, they're just lowering their sights. The New York Times reports that now, counterfeit brands are on the rise for such items as $295 Kooba bags and $140 Ugg boots instead of $2800 Louis Vuitton handbags.
Counterfeiters are turning to the lower-priced merchandise, says The Times, because they "are easy to sell on the Internet, can be priced higher than obvious fakes, and avoid the aggressive programs by the big luxury brands to protect their labels."
One of the advantages of selling such goods is that the illicit merchants can "price the counterfeits close to retail prices." Whereas a retail shopper knows that a very expensive luxury item can't be the real thing if it is selling for a ridiculously low price, the more modestly priced items are harder to spot. For example, a $295 Kooba bag might be available from an Internet seller for $190. That price is close enough to make a consumer think it might be the legitimate item -- but it is probably a fake, because the price is too deeply discounted.
It gets even tougher for a manufacturer when illicit websites go so far as to make their sites look like they're real. Leah Evert-Burks, director of brand protection for Deckers, the company that own the Ugg Australia brand, tells The New York Times, "Counterfeit websites go up pretty easily, and counterfeiters will copy our stock photos, the text of our web site, so it will look and feel like" the legitimate site.
Ugg Australia is now engaged in a full enforcement program, according to The Times. In 2009, in fact, customs agents confiscated 60,000 pairs of fake Ugg boots, and that same year, the company went after 2500 websites selling fradulent products, as well as some 170,000 listings on sites such as eBay and Craigslist.
Unfortunately for the real brand names, this only goes to prove -- if you can't sell the real thing, you can always fake it.