Belstaff legal action closes down hundreds of counterfeit websites

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MarkMonitor, a world leader in enterprise brand protection and a Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science business, has announced that one of its high profile clients, luxury fashion brand Belstaff, has won its ongoing battle against online counterfeiters.

Following a civil lawsuit heard in the US courts, judges ordered counterfeiters to pay more than $42m 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 programme for all of its IP – from registering of trademarks to individual products, including seeking external help from online brand protection specialists, MarkMonitor. The programme 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 US 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% of all luxury sales. The growing trend for taking luxury goods online looks set to continue, with leading retail analysts McKinsey forecasting that ecommerce would account for 18 per cent of all global luxury sales by 2025.

Gavin Haig, CEO, Belstaff, said: “At Belstaff, e-commerce has been a major driver for the growth of our brand. 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 outer wear, 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.

The sophisticated MarkMonitor technology is capable of exploring an entire network of sites, including both the index and non-index results, as well as examine fundamental criteria such as the website’s design and the payment processes. The search results for Belstaff uncovered 3,000 websites selling counterfeits products, and the technology also identified that more than 800 of the websites were managed by one individual based in China.

 Jerome Sicard, regional manager Southern Europe, MarkMonitor, said: “This decision sends a stark warning to online counterfeiters and underlines the increasing importance of online brand protection. This is not the first case of its kind, however the Belstaff ruling is unusual due to the substantial number of websites being handed over to the brand. Thanks to the proactive action by the Belstaff legal team, US law firm DWT and the use of the latest online brand protection technology, Belstaff can continue to provide its customers with its sought-after luxury goods through the most reliable and safe online offering.”