UK fashion trade marks owned by online fast fashion houses jump 163% in last five years, research reveals

The number of trade marks owned by online fast fashion retailers such as Asos, Boohoo and Shein has increased by 163% from 136 to 358 in the last five years, shows new research by leading intellectual property law firm Mathys & Squire.

Mathys & Squire says the expansion of the trade mark portfolios reflects the development of fast-moving e-retailers into fully-fledged, multi-brand fashion houses. Key to this strategy is acquiring a formidable portfolio of intellectual property (IP), including both established brands and new trademarks.

Mathys & Squire explains that the size of these e-retailers’ trade mark portfolios is catching up with that of the traditional high street fashion giants. In comparison, the top 10 fashion retailers in the UK by turnover** own a portfolio of 949 trademarks.

Mathys & Squire says expanding their IP portfolios should help fast fashion companies boost their profits, as brand owners typically receive greater profit margins than resellers.

Rebecca Tew, trade mark attorney at Mathys & Squire. says: “The growth in the trade mark portfolios of online fashion retailers shows that they are now going toe-to-toe with established high street brands.”

“This expansion of fast fashions brands’ IP portfolios could help boost profit margins in the future”

Online fast fashion brands such as Asos and Boohoo have begun to rival established high street brands in the size of their IP portfolios. Boohoo now owns 108 UK trade marks, more than Primark (104) and H&M (89), while Asos owns 194 – more than Zara owner Inditex and just shy of Superdry’s 201.Much of this growth comes from acquiring the brands of distressed high street chains such as Karen Millen and Arcadia’s Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.

Mathys & Squire says that there remains value in many legacy brands, including those whose stores have gone into administration.

Tew adds: “The way in which online fast fashion retailers have snapped up distressed high street brands highlights that the value of brands can outlast the value of bricks-and-mortar stores. Established brands bring with them name recognition and a loyal following. When combined with the lower overheads of online only retail, the appeal of adding these names to their ‘own brand’ portfolios seems clear.”

“Covid has undoubtedly accelerated the already growing trend towards online shopping, leaving online-only labels in a strong position for future growth.”