A recent report on WWD.com, compiled from recent World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) data, showed that Japanese personal care company Shiseido increased its International trade mark application filings in 2018 to 79, up from 33 the previous year. The company now ranks as the 27th most prolific filer of International marks. Rival French beauty and personal care giant L'Oreal is the second highest filer according to the report, with the majority of the filings relating to beauty products.

The counterfeiting concern

The decision by an increasing number of fashion and beauty companies to protect their products through registered rights is reported as indicating a growing concern over counterfeiting, with applications being submitted to protect brands and commercial interests. Joining L'Oreal and Shiseido in the sector are Lidl (with 28 filings), Chanel Sarl (25), Parfums Christian Dior (12), Avon Products (12), and LVMH fragrance (14).

Speaking about whether the increase in online sales by fashion and beauty companies was creating pressure to file trade mark applications, Francis Gurry, WIPO director-general, told WWD: “Absolutely, because of course, the online market has the great advantage of the expansion of the number of consumers that you can reach. But it has the great disadvantage of the vulnerability, or copiability, if you like, of the trade mark."

Brand protection is paramount

Nor is the growth in filing related only to established and traditional brands. The last few years have seen an explosive growth in independent 'disruptor' brands such as Revolution Beauty and Deciem, created quickly and driven by social media. Cheaper manufacturing costs have reduced the barriers to entry and companies are no longer required to spend heavily on expensive ad campaigns. Today, their customers do it for them, through Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Such new brands engage with their customers, reacting quickly to their needs and trends. These indie brands also need to build up their brand protection, ready for investment and buy-outs to make the next market leap.

No IP, no brand protection, no value.

Taking out counterfeiters was likened to me by one client to the children's game of whack-a-mole. You take the counterfeiter out and they pop up again somewhere else. But keep going, and they give up and go after another company. Ultimately, unless you've protected your brand in the first place with a trade mark, you won't have the stick to hit the mole with. In the beauty sector, brand and brand image is paramount. Securing strong protection through trade marks is the first thing brand owners should do when going to market.