Fake Gucci and Replica Brands: The Legalities

Hannah Shulman

Hannah Shulman

Knockoffs vs. Counterfeit Fashion Goods - What You Need To Know 

In an era where luxury handbags cost $2,000 and designer t-shirts can easily run $500, knockoff brands present themselves as a way to buy those desired items at an affordable price. 

A report states that knockoffs sold online cost luxury fashion brands $30.3 billion in sales. When it comes to legalities of these “fake products”, there is a difference between “counterfeit goods” and “knockoffs”. A counterfeit is an identical copy of another product, which infringes upon the trademark of that product mark. Knockoffs, however, are not illegal because they only resemble the luxury product. That means that a replica Gucci handbag is considered a knockoff.

Law and Order of Replica Brands

America further distinguishes counterfeits and knockoffs by viewing counterfeits as an effort on the manufacturer’s part to dupe customers into buying items that they believe to be a luxury brand instead of a clever imitation. Thus, U.S. law punishes those who sell counterfeits, but not those who buy them. In fact, many people buy counterfeit goods unknowingly, which is why many sites offer tips on how to identify “fake fashion”. These sites provide insights as to how the workmanship, logo, price, feel, and location of legitimate luxury products differ from counterfeits. 

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On the other side of the Atlantic, France and Italy realize that some counterfeit consumers know they are buying fakes as a cheap alternative. That's why French and Italian law punish buyers of fake designer goods. 

While fashion knockoffs are typically illegal, a designer company can take the knockoff brand to court to pursue repercussions. However, it becomes difficult to evaluate whether the knockoff brand is violating any intellectual property laws if they are only copying the design of the luxury good without using the company’s trademark. 

Grag Shatan, an attorney in the brand protection practice at McCarter & English, elaborates that “it can be much more difficult to prove trademark infringement because the name and logo are nowhere to be found.” 

Knockoffs Gaining Fame with Social Media 

Instagram is one of many online forums contributing to the promotion and sales of counterfeit products. In a report published by the analytics firm Ghost Data, an estimated “20% of all posts about fashion products on Instagram feature counterfeit products.” 

A once underground economy of knockoff brands is now reaching the mainstream media. 50,000 accounts on Instagram sell counterfeit goods, resulting in 65 million posts advertising fake versions of luxury products. With Instagram’s new shopping feature – “Checkout with Instagram”, tens of thousands of these counterfeit companies can now easily accrue buyers.

The Legalities of Counterfeit Goods and Knockoffs – knockoffs have gained fame on social media

While Instagram isn’t the only tech company assisting sales in the fashion knockoff world, features such as hashtags help replica brands gain recognition. A brand selling knockoff Versace products can land their posts in a sea of real Versace posts, both under the hashtag “Versace”. Those perusing through the posts within this hashtag, might mistake the knockoff brand for the real deal. 

If You Can’t Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Various luxury fashion brands have noticed the impact of copies on the market. Some luxury brands have decided to beat them to it by selling “knockoffs” of their own products. 

Renzo Rooso, founder of Diesel, said: "We have so many counterfeit products all over the world I thought, 'Why can't we play with this problem that we have?’ So, we created a fake product, a fake name, and we came to the counterfeit district." Diesel can now be found on Canal Street, selling sweatshirts displaying an alternate spelling of their company name: “Deisel”. 

Even Valentino joined the bandwagon, producing a video campaign (“Expect the Unexpected”) which shows Londoners buying what they believe to be “fake” Valentino bags on the street for 200 pounds. They then find out that the bags are actually real Valentino. 

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If you’re inspired by a famous fashion brand but don’t have the design experience to get started, there are tools out there that can help you create a unique, luxury product to sell online. MakersValley offers a white label factory sample catalog that you can browse for free. You can use these samples as a starting point for your own design. Even better is that the Italian manufacturers who made these samples available to you are the same manufacturers who create apparel products, handbags, and shoes for the luxury fashion brands we all know and love. You can make specific customizations to these samples and add your own brand label.

Want to learn how to protect your clothing designs from copycats? Check out this blog post:

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Want to learn how to protect your clothing designs from copycats? Check out this blog.

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