Counterfeiting is a global, $600 billion a year problem. By no means limited to luxury goods, virtually every product category has been counterfeited – if you can make it, you can fake it. The problem is estimated to have grown by 10,000 per cent in the past two decades, fuelled by rocketing consumer demand. Fraudulent luxury goods are not a new phenomenon. As soon as a limited supply of superior goods has existed, it has incited desire and led to copying. One early example dates back to A.D. 27, when Gallic wine are thought to have begun forging trademarks on wine amphorae, passing off local cheap wine as expensive Roman wine. Nonetheless, the last decade, which has seen luxury fashion brands embrace online, has also seen a sharp rise in counterfeiters taking to the internet. The advent of the digital age has changed the rules of the game, shifting the dynamics of buying fakes and widening the frauds’ reach. This has chiefly been the result of:
- Increased accessibility to both luxury and imitation products. As previously stated on Fashion’s Collective, the internet is fundamentally about accessibility, whereas luxury brands work on a principle of exclusivity. Many fashion houses have managed to successfully balance being online and preserving an aura of mystery. There is no doubt that embracing digital has brought luxury to a much broader audience. Desirability, coupled with the high price point has in turn created a disparity between demand-and-supply; and once the internet let luxury goods into our households, counterfeit luxury goods weren’t far behind.
- Increased remoteness between buyer and seller. The internet creates transactional remoteness, and in practice this impacts the buyer and seller in different ways. On the one hand, transactional remoteness ensures anonymity for the buyer, meaning that he or she escapes the social and moral opprobrium that comes with buying fakes. On the other hand, it protects fraudulent sellers by making it harder for law enforcement to shut down the offending websites. This is largely due to counterfeiters operating across several nations and often out of countries that take a lax approach to IP protection.