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A complete guide to trademark infringement in the fashion industry
Trademark Infringement
5 mins

A complete guide to trademark infringement in the fashion industry

Table of Contents:

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as any word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies the goods and services of one trader from another. In the world of fashion, trademarks are crucial to a brand’s value. They play a vital role in a brand’s ability to design, market, and sell fashion products. 

    Whether you are dealing with clothing or fashion accessories, a powerful trademark can be the factor that influences a consumer to choose your brand over another. So, what can you do when your trademark is being infringed by others in the market? How can you protect your brand from trademark infringement and ensure that your customers aren’t being exploited? 

    In this blog, we’ll be diving into everything you need to know about trademark infringement in the fashion industry by highlighting a few key topics, including: 

    • How is trademark infringement different in fashion?
    • How to identify a trademark infringement in fashion
    • Best practices for fashion infringement
    • Leveraging technology solutions for effective fashion trademark protection

    How is trademark infringement different in fashion?

    The fashion industry is a complex mesh of a variety of different intellectual property rights. Copyrights, patents, and trade secrets all play a role in dictating brand strategy, product development, and brand loyalty within fashion. The most important IP rights in the fashion industry are trademarks, which play a unique and vital role in establishing origin and attracting consumers. 

    Trademarks are distinguishing words, phrases, symbols, or designs associated with a particular business. In fashion, trademarks are often used to protect brands from knockoffs and counterfeits, which are commonplace within the industry. For example, trademarks are used to safeguard visual elements such as patterns, colors, logos, and names like Gucci, Nike, or Louis Vuitton. 

    The fashion world is fast-paced, driven by trends, and full of a diverse range of design elements. The industry is unique from a trademark perspective, as businesses thrive off selling knockoffs and mass-market brands regularly draw inspiration from high-end designs and style. Some brands aggressively defend their trademarks, like Loubutin’s approach to their iconic red-soled shoes, while others allow their trademarked styles to proliferate in the market, knowing that the popularity of their designs will benefit them in the long run. 

    How to identify a trademark infringement in fashion

    Before you start tackling infringers in fashion, you need to know how to spot them and their activity. Here are a few tips to help you identify trademark infringement in fashion: 

    • Keyword searches

    One way to identify trademark infringement is by manually searching for products bearing your trademarks on marketplaces, social media, and third-party websites. 

    You can use the search engines of many online platforms like Amazon, eBay, Instagram, and TikTok to perform keyword searches. By targeting specific words and phrases you can identify accounts, listings and posts that seem to make use of your trademarked fashion content. 

    • Reverse image searches

    In addition, you can use Google Lens and similar search engine tools, to execute reverse image searches. Upload an image of your clothing item or fashion accessory and Google Lens will return all the associated sites and URLs where similar or exact images appear. 

    This searching method will help you identify posts and listings that include your trademark, especially on third-party websites or large online marketplaces that can be difficult to navigate manually. 

    • Customer reports

    You should also engage with your customers to learn whether they have come across unauthorized versions of your trademarks. While some customers may be inclined to purchase knockoffs, many customers will instead be loyal to your brand and will want to know they are always buying your legitimate fashion products. 

    Tell them about the impact of trademark infringement on fashion brands. The more they know about your brand’s perspective the more they will be inclined to help you safeguard your trademarks. Let them submit their response via customer reports so that you can receive detailed information which will allow you to act fast and effectively against trademark infringers. 

    Best practices for fashion infringement

    So, once you’ve identified that your business is in fact being targeted by fashion trademark infringers, what can you do to protect your brand and customers? Here are a few recent examples of fashion brands affected by trademark infringement and how they’ve dealt with it: 

    • Hermès – Defend your brand in the courts

    Recently, Hermès, the luxury goods and fashion accessories brand, won a trademark case against the artist Mason Rothschild. Hermès was awarded $133,000 in damages for proving that Rothschild had infringed their trademark by selling pictures of copycat Hermès purses via NFTs. 

    The case made news for its implications for the world of NFTs, IP, and fashion. In addition, the case shows how some major fashion brands are able to successfully protect their trademarks by legally pursuing infringers. 

    Hermès received damages but perhaps more importantly the case established a precedent that they, and other fashion brands, will be able to use to defend their trademarks from bad actors going forward. 

    • Burberry and Gucci – Partner with resellers

    The reseller market is enormous for fashion but it is also a murky area when it comes to trademark infringement. Research indicates that resold clothing accounts for 27% of people’s wardrobes in 2023. 

    Major fashion brands are aware of this. In response, brands like Burberry and Gucci have partnered with online resellers like The RealReal to ensure their fashion products end up in the hands of online buyers rather than knockoffs and counterfeits that infringe their trademarks. 

    As well as being a smart business move it is also a choice that demonstrates a commitment to sustainable fashion that acknowledges consumer’s desires to purchase authentic high-end clothes at lower prices. 

    • Puma – Protect your IP with technology

    Puma discovered that their trademarks and products were being infringed via online marketplaces and platforms at a large scale. The issue was having a direct impact on both customers and profits. After trying manual search and enforcement, they realized they needed a more advanced solution.. 

    They turned to a technological tool to help them crack down on the infringers and protect their brand. Using an automated, scalable service, Puma was able to take down 760,000 counterfeit products online in a few months and protect their trademarks from being exploited. 

    Leveraging technology solutions for effective fashion trademark protection 

    Red Points’ Brand Protection Solution for fashion brands is the ideal technological tool to defend against fashion trademark infringement. Through 24/7 online monitoring and a robust system of takedowns, we can safeguard your fashion brand’s revenue and reputation. Our tool has an enforcement success rate of 94.3% and has taken down over 1 million infringements in a single year. Here’s how it works: 

    • Set up 

    We get your brand ready to tackle trademark infringement via our onboarding and configuration process. Our system is more efficient than traditional brand protection measures, as you are able to quickly upload your IP rights and instantly start creating automation rules to help you find and takedown infringers. 

    • Confirm 

    Powered by machine learning algorithms, we identify potentially infringing listings and posts on marketplaces and online platforms. You can review complex cases or use our Managed Services team to decide the best steps to take. 

    • Remove

    You will then be able to automatically ask marketplaces and platforms to take down infringing content. Through our platform, you can uncover repeat infringers, identify high-priority regions, and review the impact of your coverage. 

    Over $1.2 trillion is spent each year on counterfeit fashion. To protect your brand from this tidal wave of trademark infringement you need to use the best technological solutions. Our platform, trusted by fashion brands around the world like Hugo Boss, Fila, and PUMA, is the ideal solution to protect your fashion organization from trademark infringement and abuse. 

    What’s next

    The fashion industry is a complex and fast-paced environment, where brand recognizability and identity are vital to success. To ensure your business can protect your revenue, reputation, and customers you need to be proactively detecting and reporting trademark infringements. 

    An automated brand protection solution can help with this. By using a specialized solution you will be able to monitor the internet 24/7 and efficiently take down any trademark infringers you discover. As a result, you will be able to cost-effectively safeguard your fashion IP and your customer relationships. 

    To learn more about how Red Points can protect your brand from trademark infringement in the fashion industry, please request a demo here


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