By Fiona Gao, Head of Business Development for Pointer Brand Protection
According to a 2018 report by the popular wedding planning website, The Knot, this time last year was a moment of great anticipation for nearly 30,000 couples across the United States. The website revealed that the 18th of August 2018 was the year’s most popular day for weddings, which means that once again, this weekend will be filled with happy celebrations. In the United Kingdom too, August ranks as the most popular month for weddings, with the biggest cluster coming during the final weekend.
Given how much money is now spent on weddings, it’s not just the sound of cheering guests that’ll be heard, but the ringing of cash registers too. In the US, according to the same survey, the average cost of a wedding has risen to $33,931 (€30,249), while in the UK, a wedding with all the extras runs to £30,355 (€32,703). It’s no surprise that the global wedding market is now estimated to be in excess of $300 billion. From cakes to cars, the rising cost of wedding planning has also resulted in a growing market for fake goods which infringe the trademarks, copyright, and designs of creatives across multiple industries. Whether you’re a designer dressmaker or a floral stylist, weddings can be both the most beneficial and potentially harmful events to your brand.
To highlight some of the issues with fake wedding products that many brands face, we look here at some of the most commonly faked items and offer some solutions for brands wishing to protect themselves.
Breaking it Down – Which Products get Copied and Which Businesses are at Risk
Counterfeiting and intellectual property theft have now become so common that there are few sectors of goods and services that escape from the $509 billion global trade in fakes. As the planning of weddings covers a wide range of activities, it has also become a prime target for IP criminals whose activities cover various infringements.
One of the biggest problems for established brands is the use of their trademarks and designs on wedding-themed products that are offered unofficially.
If designer wedding favors aren’t to your taste, perhaps one of eBay’s 3,000+ “Harry Potter wedding” listings will offer something more in keeping with the day’s theme.
While these unofficial online listings can be problematic for diversified brands, however, there are also serious cases where businesses who rely more centrally on the wedding industry are being undermined by counterfeit wedding products.
Fake Wedding Dresses
As one of the biggest single expenses (estimated average spend of $1,631/€1,454), wedding dresses represent a major investment, and a potential minefield for designers. For brides who want a designer dress, a fashion house like Jenny Packham’s offers high-end gowns that go above the average spend. While a genuine Packham dress may cost in excess of $3,600/€3,232, however, current online listings from Chinese websites offer imitations that use the designer’s name (and imagery taken from elsewhere) in their listings for just $163/€145 – a 95% decrease on the RRP.
Although internet shoppers will know that these dresses are fake, it’s more plausible that buyers who order Chinese imitations are then able to pass these on as vintage or unworn through social media or resale platforms such as Shpock. This was the case for bride to be, Danielle Harrison, who posted her own concerns about the Sottero and Midgley dress she purchased outside of official channels. Believing that she was getting a bargain at $422/€376, her joy turned to dismay when she realized that the dress may not have been genuine after all.
On the DhGate website alone, there are currently 152 listings for Jenny Packham dresses (both wedding and non-wedding), which, at the lower price of $163/€145, would potentially generate $24,776/€22,078 for counterfeiters – cheating the designer of $522,424/€465,540 and the consumer of more than money.
Although the idea of fake flowers may conjure up images of plastic stems and silk petals, intellectual property rights have been protecting horticultural brands from counterfeiting for decades. Legally, patents and trademarks can be put in place to protect specific flower names and plant cultivars, all of which help to establish certain growers as synonymous with their signature blooms. These businesses invest time and money in building a reputation for their product, but occasionally they too have their ideas infringed by unofficial traders.
In one high-profile case from 2005, Portuguese Customs seized four consignments of roses that had been shipped from Brazil. Sold under the brand names of Grand Gala and Versilia, the 36,800 cut blooms had been unofficially grown and sold with the intention that they could they be filtered into the legitimate supply chain.
Versilia and Grand Gala roses continue to be sold on Chinese wholesale websites, so for businesses who need to protect their horticultural brand rights, online enforcement may be a good option to safeguard the income they make from the $2,411/€2,149 spent on average at weddings.
Fake Wedding Jewelry
With an average spend of $5,680/€5,064, engagement rings are one of the biggest single ticket items at modern weddings. While rings are one important purchase, however, wedding jewelry also extends to accessories such as tiaras and cufflinks, all of which lead to an important boost for designers, manufacturers, and retailers.
Aside from the problems caused by counterfeit jewels and precious metals, the design work that goes into creating memorable pieces for the bridal party and their guests is something that also gives rise to fakes.
One of the biggest drivers of fake wedding-related products in recent years has been internationally publicized celebrity weddings such as the 2018 marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Although Meghan Markle’s tiara was a loan from the Queen’s collection rather than a modern designer item, the online reaction to it is still revealing.
On the well-known Chinese marketplace, AliExpress, the headpiece’s design was quickly imitated by copycats whose offerings ranged in price, but all of which came below the estimated $2.4 million/€2.1 million of the original.
Although in this example no economic or reputational damage was done to a particular designer, it’s clear that while there are commercial opportunities gained by being featured in a popular wedding, the dangers of being counterfeited can also be immediate.
How can Wedding Brands Protect Themselves from Counterfeits?
As with all brand protection strategies, forward planning is crucial to protecting your intellectual property and your business. Being armed with a well-considered portfolio of trademarks, designs, and patents will help you defend your ideas against people who would seek to benefit from them. As has been mentioned above, even products such as flowers and jewelry designs can be protected, so it’s important to take the relevant steps.
If online listings do occur, however, then our dedicated team of brand protection analysts offer the best solution. Using cutting-edge software that monitors over 600 marketplaces, social media channels, and websites globally, we have removed millions of listings for counterfeit goods on behalf of household-name businesses.
For more information on how brands can protect their interests, the recent article on counterfeit gold by our UK Director of Business Development, Marcus Stewart, contains some invaluable tips on the basic strategies you might take. For a fuller consultation, however, contact us today and learn more about the commercial value in a comprehensive brand protection solution.