As eCommerce steadily gains momentum, it has spawned entire empires that exist solely online. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the apparel industry. Today, hoards of budding designers are bypassing the treacherous path toward retail-shelf placement, opting instead to peddle their wares in online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and Poshmark. Many however, are completely unaware of how vigilant they need to be about protecting brands online.
This is especially true with emerging fashion trends. Run a search for “Steampunk” on Amazon, for example, and you’ll get links to dozens of brands, many of whom are only available online. While sales may be through the roof, this business model can be a fool’s paradise.
Indeed, many of these young fashion entrepreneurs are unaware of the risks that exist in these online marketplaces. While they busy themselves counting sales numbers, thousands of intellectual property vultures are scheming to steal their ideas, produce knock-offs, and/or acquire the brand’s own products through illicit channels, only to resell them in the same online marketplaces at prices cheaper than the brand itself.
That’s precisely why, as sales and popularity grow, these entrepreneurs must be as concerned with protecting their brand online as they are with growing their reputation. These days, eCommerce enforcement agencies do everything from monitoring the entire World Wide Web for illegitimate sales, to investigating the product sources used by illicit sellers, to deploying the legal tactics necessary to shut them down.
Ultimately, online brand protection is important for fashion entrepreneurs, their fans, and the validity of the online marketplaces themselves. Not only can consumers be injured by knock off products, brands themselves can suffer irreversible damage to their reputation if counterfeiters are using online marketplaces to sell inferior (but similar) goods to the public. There may be no fate worse for a young brand that has expended its founders’ blood, sweat, and tears, only to be brought down by intellectual property thieves looking to make a quick buck off of someone else’s success.