Belstaff wins $42m in civil suit against counterfeiters

Beckham for BelstaffUK clothing firm Belstaff has been awarded a whopping $42m in a civil lawsuit brought in the US against 676 websites selling counterfeits.

The company - best known for its leather and waterproof jackets and currently running an advertising campaign fronted by David Beckham - brought the action with the help of online brand protection company MarkMonitor. The operation was able to identify 3,000 websites selling counterfeit versions of its products.

Around 800 sites were operated by a single individual based in China, according to Belstaff, which said the counterfeits tended to be older clothing lines that were no longer in production.

The damages awarded to Belstaff are likely to be largely symbolic given the diffuse nature of the offending sites, although in these cases it is often the case that some money can be appropriated from online accounts associated with offending sites.

Nevertheless, the takedowns are disruptive to counterfeiters, and MarkMonitor noted that the action was unusual because of the number of sites taken offline.

"There are other high profile luxury brands that have taken advantage of the US counterfeiting law, however we believe that our case has set the bar even higher due to the unprecedented number of sites that were taken down in one go," commented Belstaff's head of legal Elena Mauri.

"The whole legal process took less than four months and none of the single top 20 websites that were cited in the case are still in operation today."

The company's chief executive Gavin Haig said that ecommerce has been a major driver for the brand but "alongside the clear benefits of venturing into the online retail market, we were aware of the potential negative impact from counterfeiters."

“Right from the outset, we have been determined to stop our customers falling prey to counterfeiters. We want to do everything in our power to protect our loyal customer base and our hard-earned, 91-year-old heritage."

Belstaff notes on its website that it does not its merchandise through individuals, street vendors, unauthorised retail locations or internet auctions, and the only way to purchase genuine items is through its website, retail outlets and official stockists.

It gives advice to consumers who want to avoid buying counterfeits here.

Inline sales account for around 11 per cent of the turnover of luxury goods manufacturers at the moment, according to a report from McKinsey & Co, and the proportion is expected to increase to 18 per cent by 2025.

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