Recent reports indicate that the makers of the Snuggie blanket are suing online retailer Amazon for offering counterfeit stock. Snuggie claims that Amazon has wilfully allowed the sales, which it maintains free-ride on its goodwill and damage its reputation via negative consumer reviews.
2016 has been the year in which brand owners have rallied against counterfeiting, with Birkenstock withdrawing from Amazon, Apple claiming that 90% of its products on Amazon were fake, and e-tailer AliBaba coming under fire. In response, both Amazon and AliBaba have announced tougher internal mechanisms to tackle the issue, with Amazon also issuing two lawsuits against counterfeit sellers.
Clearly, the new mechanisms being put in place by e-tailers are welcomed. An interesting question is whether or not the brand owners’ complaints form part of a wider commercial phenomenon. Today, big brands are increasingly using their size and scale to diversify their platform offerings, including by offering own-brand goods and an expansion of services (e.g. AliBaba’s trade mark filing service). This combination of e-tailer evolution and the ever-increasing importance of brand CSR means that platforms now have internal and external vested interests in protecting IP: the hunted has become the hunter.
The reasons for the e-tailers’ more conscientious approach to fighting counterfeiting aside, it is hoped that 2017 will be the year of increased recognition for brand owners and protection for consumers.
Stobbs has considerable experience of assisting brand owners with online enforcement and anti-counterfeiting programmes (see here). If you would like further advice on any of the issues discussed here, feel free to drop us a line.