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Brief Published: 4 Apr 2017

Fighting Fakes: Retail’s Product Authentication Tactics

La Maison Vestiaire Collective, Madrid

In a bid to instil confidence in luxury online shoppers concerned about the legitimacy of what they’re buying, retailers and start-ups are boosting their efforts to fight counterfeiting via a mix of digital tools and bricks-and-mortar tactics.

In the European Union, about 9.7% of luxury sales are lost annually due to counterfeiting, with €26.3bn of revenue lost annually (EU’s Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, 2015). Meanwhile, 20% of Instagram posts in 2016 concerning luxury fashion brands featured fake products (Washington Post, 2016).

  • Authentication Workshop: French recommerce business Vestiaire Collective, which sells “pre-loved” luxury clothing/accessories online, hosted a series of consumer-facing product verification workshops in Madrid last month. Led by its head of authentication Victoire Boyer, the four-day pop-up taught consumers how to distinguish counterfeit bags from the real deal by assessing the quality indicators of a variety of fashion brands.  
  • Anti-Counterfeiting Codes: US technologist Hikitag’s anti-counterfeiting system works by attaching unique codes to products that correspond to, but are not the same as, their original serial numbers – effectively issuing a long-term digital passport. The two codes create what the firm’s co-founder John Candillier describes as “an unbreakable bond”.

    The codes can be used on a peer-to-peer basis for reselling sites (for brands, limiting the number of fakes in circulation; for consumers, delivering full transferral of ownership). However, they could also be used by brands that want to integrate the system directly into their own websites. The concept also gives brands valuable visibility on the rate of resales, and where they’re happening. 
  • Tapping Transparency: Amazon is launching a brand registry in April 2017, allowing brands that manufacture or sell their own-label products to register them with Amazon. This will allow the product detail pages for registered branded products to be automatically displayed – ensuring a consistency of titles, details, images and other attributes – within the brands’ selling spaces. 
    They’ll also be able to register their logos. This enables brands with registered products to use a ‘Report a Violation’ tool – allowing them to search via text and image to report any trademark or copyright infringements. The aim is for brands and consumers to be able to notify Amazon about suspicious listings more easily, expediting removal.
    Additionally, brands can also assign Amazon’s new ‘transparency’ labels to packages. Once scanned by consumers with the Amazon app, the labels state the product’s provenance and authenticity, and potentially include additional content such as information on materials used.

See also Retail Futures: Blockchain’s Trust-Boosting Opportunity, Positive Provenance, The Value of ‘Made In’, Brands Behaving Authentically and Decoded Milan 2015.