Social media use in South Africa has grown at an alarming rate in recent years and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are considered the most popular methods of keeping up to date with worldwide events. According to Africa News, 1 million people started using social media for the first time every day over the past year.
The increase of internet usage on mobile smartphones has resulted in more than two-thirds of South Africa's population of 60 million people having access to social media. While social media can be regarded as a vital tool for marketing goods and services, many brand owners fail to identify the use of social media as an area of concern for the sale of counterfeit goods online. This new method of doing business has received buy-in from counterfeiters. With much more anonymity and far less red tape, counterfeiters are exploiting social media platforms as a tool for reaching unsuspecting consumers.
Counterfeiters create so called 'social media boutique' pages on which they advertise their "AAA grade" replicas for sale. In an effort to confuse and deceive consumers, photographs from various websites are used and fake goods are priced similarly to genuine goods.
The direct loss of sales as a result of consumers substituting genuine goods for counterfeit goods has, and will continue to have, a hugely detrimental financial effect on brand owners. Further, the indirect reputational damage that occurs when consumers experience issues with inferior quality counterfeit goods can bring prominent brands to their knees, with brand owner ignorance essentially being to blame.
As counterfeiters become craftier, brand owners must consider non-traditional IP protection strategies to fight back. Brand owners should adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach by deploying resources targeted solely at monitoring social media and sales platforms. This can be achieved by working together with IP attorneys and industry stakeholders to ensure that counterfeiters are stopped in their tracks and counterfeit goods do not get filtered into the market.
It is essential for brand owners to have strategies in place that will assist in the constant war against the sale of counterfeit goods and prevent unauthorised users from riding on the coat-tails of their reputation.
This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.