"The world is moving incredibly fast. If the internal clock of the retailer isn't moving as fast as the external clock, they're losing." That was the message from the head of retail at Google UK, Jamie Murray Wells, to the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) late last year.
The retail industry is progressing in leaps and bounds, but unfortunately so is the counterfeit clothing market. We examine why brands need to protect their intellectual property and explore how they can strengthen their brand image in future.
During the ASBCI's recent 'Fashion's Frontiers - What's Next?' conference, Wells discussed the internet's growing role in everyday life and in the retail industry specifically. The number of global IP addresses is predicted to grow "at least 12 times between now and 2020," he said. By this time, another eight billion people will become connected to the internet, with the average person owning three or four devices.
This abundance of connected devices will empower consumers, enabling them to research and compare a variety of products independently. It will also help retailers by making it easier to reach customers at home, in work and on the go. But what about the risks? How could the internet and new technologies pose a threat to the retail industry in the future?
Counterfeit fashion in the UK
Counterfeit clothing is a huge problem for the global retail industry and it's thought that around £3 billion is spent on fake fashion garments and footwear every year in the UK alone.
The counterfeit clothing market not only eats into the profits of genuine brands, but can also damage a brand’s image. Burberry worked hard to recover its reputation as a luxury designer after its iconic check pattern became readily available on local markets at knockdown prices. In 2012, the design house took a network of Chinese counterfeiters to court, winning £63 million in damages as a result.
Nike was the most counterfeited brand last year and fake midmarket products pose a different problem, as they're harder to spot and priced more realistically.
Back in July 2014, the Daily Mail reported a bust in London by Trading Standards that saw the seizure of counterfeit fashion items worth an astonishing £17 million. Over 30,000 pairs of Nike trainers were included in this haul.
3D printers could fuel fakes
Now, with the introduction of 3D printers, counterfeiters could find it even easier to fake familiar brand logos and labels. Peter Nunn, associate at law firm Mishcon de Raya, explains that if design files were hacked into or stolen, criminals could create identical garments using the exact same technology, making it nearly impossible to detect counterfeit goods.
Of course, it's illegal to steal and duplicate intellectual property in the form of logos and trademarks. "You can use the infringement act against them," says Nunn of the counterfeiters. But if fakes cannot be detected, how can the flow of counterfeit clothing be stopped?
Protecting your intellectual property
First and foremost, brands and retailers need to protect their intellectual property and ensure that no unauthorized parties are able to access their design files. Most brands will have a library of product specifications and artwork, but this needs to be kept secure.
Segura's cloud-based supply chain solution ensures that suppliers and manufacturers can access the latest artwork files needed to fulfil orders, driving consistency among your suppliers. It also keeps all your valuable data on one secure platform, and prevents any single supplier from gaining control over your assets. Only pre-approved suppliers can enter the supply chain framework, and you will be notified immediately of any unauthorised subcontracting.
The result? you retain control of your brand's intellectual property and keep your production line moving.